Ireo Grace Realtech Pvt. Ltd. vs Abhishek Khanna on 11 January, 2021


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Supreme Court of India

Ireo Grace Realtech Pvt. Ltd. vs Abhishek Khanna on 11 January, 2021

Author: Hon’Ble Ms. Malhotra

Bench: L. Nageswara Rao, Hon’Ble Ms. Malhotra, Ajay Rastogi

                                                              REPORTABLE

                   IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                    CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
                     CIVIL APPEAL NO. 5785 OF 2019


IREO GRACE REALTECH PVT. LTD.                                … Appellant

                                  Versus

ABHISHEK KHANNA & OTHERS                                    … Respondents




                                    with
                     CIVIL APPEAL NO. 7615 OF 2019
                     CIVIL APPEAL NO. 7975 OF 2019
                     CIVIL APPEAL NO. 8454 OF 2019
                     CIVIL APPEAL NO. 8480 OF 2019
                     CIVIL APPEAL NO. 8482 OF 2019
                     CIVIL APPEAL NO. 8785-94 OF 2019
                     CIVIL APPEAL NO. 9139 OF 2019
                     CIVIL APPEAL NO. 9216 OF 2019
                     CIVIL APPEAL NO. 9638 OF 2019
                     CIVIL APPEAL NO. 3064 OF 2020

                           J U D G M E N T

INDU MALHOTRA, J.

1. The present batch of Appeals has been filed by the Appellant-

Developer, to challenge the judgment passed by the National Consumer

Disputes Redressal Commission (―National Commission‖) directing refund of

the amounts deposited by the Apartment Buyers in the project ―The

Corridors‖ developed in Sector 67-A, Gurgaon, Haryana, on account of the

inordinate delay in completing the construction and obtaining the Occupation

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Certificate. Aggrieved by the said Judgment, the Appellant-Developer has

filed the present batch of Appeals under Section 23 of the Consumer

Protection Act, 1986 (―Consumer Protection Act‖).

Since common issues have arisen for consideration, they are being

decided by a common Judgment.

For the sake of brevity, the facts in Civil Appeal No. 5785 of 2019 are

being referred to as the lead matter.

2. The Department of Town and Country Planning granted a license to

Respondent No.3 – Precision Realtors Pvt. Ltd. and Respondent No.4 – Blue

Planet Infra Developers and Madeira Conbuild Pvt. Ltd. for developing a

group housing colony on a vast tract of land admeasuring about 37.5125

acres where multiple towers comprising of 1356 apartments were to be

constructed. Subsequently, the license for construction was transferred to the

Appellant – Developer.

3. On 23.07.2013, the Building Plans of the project were sanctioned by

the Directorate of Town and Country Planning, Haryana. Clause 3 of the

sanctioned Plan stipulated that NOC/ Clearance from the Fire Authority shall

be submitted within 90 days from the date of issuance of the sanctioned

Building Plans.

4. The Developer opened booking for the apartments in 2013. On

07.08.2013, the Respondent No.1- Apartment Buyer was allotted a 2 BHK

apartment in Tower-C of the project. Similar allotment letters were issued to

various other Apartment Buyers in the housing project.

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5. On 23/24.10.2013, the Developer applied for issuance of an NOC for

the Fire Fighting Scheme of the group housing colony to the Commissioner,

Municipal Corporation, Gurgaon.

The Commissioner, Municipal Corporation vide letter dated 30.12.2013

raised 16 objections with respect to the proposed Fire Fighting Scheme

submitted by the Developer.

The Developer replied to the said objections vide letter dated

22.01.2014, stating that the objections raised by the Commissioner had been

rectified. The Developer sought approval of the Fire Fighting Scheme on

priority.

The Municipal Corporation vide letter dated 28.03.2014 informed the

Developer that the deficiencies in the application for Fire NOC had not been

cured. The Developer was granted 15 days‘ time to cure the defects, failing

which, the application would be deemed to be rejected.

Ultimately, on 27.11.2014, the Director, Haryana Fire Service granted

approval to the Fire Fighting Scheme subject to the conditions mentioned

therein.

6. On 12.12.2013, Respondent No.3 obtained environmental clearance

for setting up the group housing project from the State Environment Impact

Assessment Authority. Clause 39 of the said clearance stipulated that the

project proponent shall submit a copy of the Fire Safety Plan duly approved

by the Fire Department before the start of construction.

3
Under Part-B of the General Conditions in Clause (vi), it was stipulated

that the project proponent would obtain all other statutory clearances, such as

the approval for storage of diesel from the Chief Controller of Explosives, Fire

Department, Civil Aviation Department, Forest Conservation Act, 1980 and

Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, Forest Act, 1927, PLPA 1900 etc. from the

concerned authorities, prior to the construction of the project.

7. The Apartment Buyers vide letter dated 25.03.2014 received a copy of

the Apartment Buyer‘s Agreement with a construction linked payment plan,

which is extracted hereunder :

INSTALLMENT PAYMENT PLAN

S. No. LINKED STAGES % TOTAL
1 AT THE TIME OF 10% OF BASIC 1727851.60
BOOKING
2 WITHIN 45 DAYS OF 10% OF BASIC 1727851.60
BOOKING
3 COMMENCEMENT OF 10% OF BASIC+50% 2029223.85
EXCAVATION OF DEVELOPMENT
CHARGES
4 CASTING OF LOWER 10% OF BASIC+50% 2029223.85
BASEMENT ROOF OF DEVELOPMENT
SLAB CHARGES
ND
5 CASTING OF 2 10% OF BASIC 1727851.60
FLOOR ROOF SLAB
TH
6 CASTING OF 5 10% OF BASIC 1727851.60
FLOOR ROOF SLAB
TH
7 CASTING OF 8 10% OF BASIC+50% 1852851.60
FLOOR ROOF SLAB OF CLUB
MEMBERSHIP
TH
8 CASTING OF 11 10% OF BASIC 1727851.60
FLOOR ROOF SLAB
9 CASTING OF TOP 10% OF BASIC 1727851.60
FLOOR ROOF SLAB
10 ON COMPLETION OF 50% OF BASIC+50% 988925.80
STONE/TILE OF CLUB
FLOORING IN MEMBERSHIP
APARTMENT
11 ON OFFER OF 50% OF BASIC+100% 1139646.80
POSSESSION OF IFMS+100% OF
IBRF
TOTAL 18406981.50

4

8. On 12.05.2014, the Developer executed the Apartment Buyer‘s

Agreement in favour of Respondent No.1 – Apartment Buyer for a total

consideration of Rs.1,45,22,006/-.

The relevant terms of the Apartment Buyer‘s Agreement are set-out

hereinbelow :

Clause 6 pertains to payment of Earnest Money, and reads as :
―6. EARNEST MONEY
The Company and the Allottee hereby agree that 20% (Twenty percent) of
the Sale Consideration of the Apartment shall be deemed to constitute the
―Earnest Money‖.‖
(emphasis supplied)

Clause 7 pertains to payment of instalments, and provides that :
―7. PAYMENT OF INSTALLMENTS
7.1 The Allottee has opted for the Payment Plan annexed herewith as
Annexure-IV. The Allottee understands that it shall always remain
responsible for making timely payments in accordance with the Payment
Plan Annexure-IV. Only in the case of a construction linked Payment Plan,
the Company shall be obliged to send demand notices for installments on
or about the completion of the respective stages of construction. The
demand notices shall be sent by registered post/courier and shall be
deemed to have been received by the Allottee within 05 (five) days of
dispatch by the Company or receipt thereof, whichever is earlier.
7.2 It shall not be obligatory on the part of the Company to send any
reminders for any payments whatsoever. Although the Company shall not
be obliged to send demand notices other than for the construction linked
Payment Plan, or any reminders whatsoever for payments of the
instalment, in the event that any such notices or reminders are sent by the
Company to the Allottee, as a gesture of courtesy, these shall not, under
any circumstances, be construed or deemed to be a waiver of the
obligations and responsibility of the Allottee to itself make timely payments
in accordance with the Payment Plan or in response to such demand
notices in the case of a construction linked Payment Plan.
7.3 If the Allottee prepays any installments(s) or part thereof to the
Company before it falls due for payment, the Allottee shall be entitled to
pre-payment rebate on such prepaid amounts at the interest rate declared
by the Company for this purpose from time to time. The interest on such
prepaid installment(s) shall be calculated from the date of prepayment uptill
the date when such amount would actually have become due. The credit
due to the Allottee on account of such pre-payment rebate shall however
be adjusted/paid only at the time of final instalment for the said Apartment.

7.4 The Allottee shall be liable to pay simple interest on every delayed
payment, at the rate of 20% per annum from the date that it is due for
payment till the date of actual payment thereof. In case the Allottee defaults

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in making payment of the due installment (including partial default) beyond
a period of 90 days from the due date, the Company shall be entitled,
though not obliged, to cancel the Allotment and terminate this Agreement at
any time thereafter in accordance herewith. However, the Company may
alternatively, in its sole discretion, instead decide to enforce the payment of
all its dues from the Allottee by seeking Specific Performance of this
Agreement. Further, in every such case of delayed payment, irrespective of
the type of Payment Plan, the subsequent credit of such delayed
installments(s)/payments along with delayed interest in the account of the
Company shall not however constitute waiver of the right of termination
reserved herein and shall always be without prejudice to the rights of the
Company to terminate this Agreement in the manner provided herein.
7.5 Save and except in the case of any bank, financial institution or
company with whom a tripartite agreement has been separately executed
for financing the said Apartment, or where the Company has given its
permission to mortgage to any bank, financial institution or company for
extending a loan to the Allottee against the said Apartment, the Company
shall not be responsible towards any other third party, who has made
payments or remittances to the Company on behalf of the Allottee and any
such third party shall not have any right against the said Apartment or
under this Agreement whatsoever. The Company shall issue the payment
receipts only in favour of the Allottee. Notwithstanding the above, the
Allottee is and shall remain solely and absolutely responsible for ensuring
and making all the payments due under this Agreement on time.
7.6 The Allottee may obtain finance/loan from any financial institution,
bank or any other source, but the Allottee‘s obligation to purchase the said
Apartment pursuant to this Agreement shall not be contingent on the
Allottee‘s ability or competency to obtain such finance. The Allottee would
remain bound under this Agreement whether or not it has been able to
obtain finance for the purchase of the said Apartment. The Allottee agrees
and has fully understood that the Company shall not be under any
obligation whatsoever to make any arrangement for the finance/loan
facilities to the Allottee from any bank/financial institution. The Allottee shall
not omit, ignore, delay, withhold, or fail to make timely payments due to the
Company in accordance with the Payment Plan opted by the Allottee in
terms of this Agreement on the grounds of the non-availability of bank loan
or finance from any bank/financial institution for any reason whatsoever
and if the Allottee fails to make the due payment to the Company within the
time agreed herein, then the Company shall have right to terminate this
Agreement in accordance herewith.

7.7 Furthermore, in every case where the Allottee has obtained a
loan/finance from a bank, financial institution or any other source and for
which a tripartite agreement has also been executed by the Company, it is
agreed by the Allottee that any default by the Allottee of the terms and
conditions of such loan/finance, shall also be deemed to constitute a
default by the Allottee of this Agreement, whereupon or at the written
request of such bank, financial institution or person from whom such loan
has been obtained the Company shall be entitled to terminate this
Agreement.‖
(emphasis supplied)

6
Clause 13 of the Agreement provides for handing over possession of

the Apartments and reads as :

―13. POSSESSION AND HOLDING CHARGES
13.1. Upon receipt of the Occupation Certificate under the Act pertaining
to the said Apartment, the Company shall notify the Allotee in writing to
come and take over the possession of the said Apartment (―Notice of
Possession‖). In the event the Allottee fails to accept and take the
possession of the said Apartment within the time indicated in the said
Notice of Possession, the Allottee shall be deemed to have become the
custodian of the said Apartment from the date indicated in the Notice of
Possession and the said Apartment shall thenceforth remain at the sole risk
and cost of the Allottee itself.

13.2. Notwithstanding any other provisions of this Agreement, the
Allottee agrees that if it fails, ignores or neglects to take the possession of
the said Apartment in accordance with the Notice of Possession sent by the
Company, the Allottee shall be liable to pay additional charges equivalent
to Rs. 7.5 (Rupees Seven & Half only) per sq. ft. on the Super Area per
month of the said Apartment (―Holding Charges‖). The Holding Charges
shall be a distinct charge in addition to the maintenance charges and not
related to any other charges/consideration as provided in this Agreement.
13.3 Subject to Force Majeure, as defined herein and further subject to
the Allottee having complied with all its obligations under the terms and
conditions of this Agreement and not having defaulted under any
provision(s) of this Agreement including but not limited to the timely
payment of all dues and charges including the total Sale Consideration,
registration charges, stamp duty and other charges and also subject to the
Allottee having complied with all formalities or documentation as prescribed
by the Company, the Company proposes to offer the possession of the said
Apartment to the Allottee within a period of 42 (Forty Two) months from the
date of approval of the Building Plans and/or fulfilment of the preconditions
imposed thereunder (―Commitment Period‖). The Allottee further agrees
and understands that the Company shall additionally be entitled to a period
of 180 days (―Grace Period‖), after the expiry of the said Commitment
Period to allow for unforeseen delays beyond the reasonable control of the
Company.

13.4. Subject to Clause 13.3, if the Company fails to offer possession of
the said Apartment to the Allottee by the end of the Grace Period, it shall
be liable to pay to the Allottee compensation calculated at the rate of Rs.
7.5 (Rupees Seven & Half only) per sq. ft. of the Super Area (―Delay
Compensation‖) for every month of delay until the actual date fixed by the
Company for offering possession of the said Apartment to the Allottee. The
Allottee shall be entitled to payment/adjustment against such ‗Delay
Compensation‘ only at the time of ‗Notice of Possession‘ or at the time of
payment of the final installment, whichever is earlier.

13.5. Subject to Clause 13.3, in the event of delay by the Company in
offering the possession of the said Apartment beyond a period of 12
months from the end of the Grace Period (such 12 month period hereinafter
referred to as the ―Extended Delay Period‖), then the Allottee shall become
entitled to opt for termination of the Allotment/Agreement and refund of the
actual paid up installment(s) paid by it against the said Apartment after
adjusting the interest on delayed payments along with Delay Compensation

7
for 12 months. Such refund shall be made by the Company within 90 days
of receipt of intimation to this effect from the Allottee, without any interest
thereon. For the removal of doubt, it is clarified that the Delay
Compensation payable to the Allotee who is validly opting for termination,
shall be limited to and calculated for the fixed period of 12 months only
irrespective of the date on which the Allottee actually exercised the option
for termination. This option may be exercised by the Allottee only up till
dispatch of the Notice of Possession by the Company to the Allottee
whereupon the said option shall be deemed to have irrevocably lapsed. No
other claim, whatsoever, monetary or otherwise shall lie against the
Company and/or the Confirming Parties nor be raised otherwise or in any
other manner by the Allottee.

13.6. If, however, the completion of the said Apartment is delayed due to
Force Majeure as defined herein, the Commitment Period and/or the Grace
Period and/or the Extended Delay Period, as the case may be, shall stand
extended automatically to the extent of the delay caused under the Force
Majeure circumstances. The Allottee shall not be entitled to any
compensation whatsoever, including Delay Compensation for the period of
such delay.

13.7. Under no circumstances shall the possession of the said
Apartment be given to the Allottee and the Allottee shall not be entitled to
the possession of the said Apartment unless and until the full payment of
the Sale Consideration and any other dues payable under the Agreement
have been remitted to the Company and all other obligations imposed
under this Agreement have been fulfilled by the Allottee to the complete
satisfaction of the Company.

13.8. The Allottee hereby agrees and affirms that upon taking
possession of the said Apartment, the Allottee shall be deemed to have
waived all claims against the Company/Confirming Parties, if any, in
respect of the area, specifications, quality, construction and/or any item,
amenity or provision in the said Apartment or The Corridors Project.‖
(emphasis supplied)

Clause 21.3 reads as under:

―21. TIME IS OF ESSENCE; TERMINATION AND FORFEITURE OF
EARNEST MONEY

21.1 Notwithstanding anything contained in this Agreement, timely
performance by the Allottee of all its obligations under this Agreement or
exercise of any options wherever and wherever and whenever indicated
herein this Agreement including without limitation its obligations to make
timely payments of the Sale Consideration, maintenance charges and other
deposits and amounts, including any interest, in accordance with this
Agreement shall be of essence under this Agreement. If the Allottee
neglects, omits, ignores, or fails in the timely performance of its obligations
agreed or stipulated herein for any reason whatsoever or acts in any
manner contrary to any undertaking assured herein or fails to exercise the
options offered by the Company within the stipulated period or to pay in
time to the Company any of the instalments or other amounts and charges
due and payable by the Allottee as described in Clause 7.7 herein, the
Company shall be entitled to cancel the allotment and terminate this
Agreement in the manner described hereunder.

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21.1.1 In case any failure or breach committed by the Allotee is incapable
or rectification or is in the opinion of the Company unlikely to be rectified by
the Allottee or where the Allottee is a repetitive defaulter or such failure or
default is continuing despite the Allottee being given an opportunity to
rectify the same, then this Agreement may be cancelled by the Company
with immediate effect at its sole option by written notice (―Notice of
Termination‖) to the Allottee intimating to the Allottee the decision of the
Company to terminate the Agreement and the grounds on which such
action has been taken.

…..

21.3 The Allottee understands, agrees and consents that upon such
termination, the Company shall be under no obligation save and except to
refund the amounts already paid by the Allottee to the Company, without
any interest, and after forfeiting and deducting the Earnest Money, interest
on delayed payments, brokerage/commission/charges, service tax and
other amounts due and payable to it, only after resale of the said
Apartment. Upon termination of this Agreement by the Company, save for
the right to refund, if any to the extent agreed hereinabove, the Allottee
shall have no further right or claim against the Company and/or the
Confirming Parties which, if any, shall be deemed to have been waived off
by the Allottee and the Allottee hereby expressly consents thereto. The
Company shall thenceforth be free to deal with the said Apartment in any
manner whatsoever, in its sole and absolute discretion and in the event that
the Allottee has taken possession of the said Apartment and everything
whatsoever contained therein and in such event, the Allottee and/or any
other person/occupant of the said Apartment shall immediately vacate the
said Apartment and otherwise be liable to immediate ejectment as an
unlawful occupant/trespasser. This is without prejudice to any other rights
available to the Company against the Allottee.‖
(emphasis supplied)

9. On 27.12.2017, Respondent No.1 filed a Consumer Complaint being

Consumer Case No.3823 of 2017 before the National Commission, wherein it

was inter alia prayed that the Developer be directed to refund the amount of

Rs.1,44,72,364/- paid by the Apartment Buyer alongwith interest @ 20% per

annum compounded quarterly till realization, and compensation towards

damages on account of harassment, mental agony and litigation charges.

The Apartment Buyer inter alia submitted that the Developer had invited

applications from the public for booking flats in the housing complex ―The

Corridors‖, by misrepresenting that all necessary approvals/pre-clearances

9
with respect to the and constructions had already been obtained from the

office of the Director, Town and Country Planning, Haryana, and other civil

authorities. The Developer had misrepresented at the time of booking that the

project would have a 90-meters motorable access road approaching the

project from Junction 63A to 67A which was shown in the Apartment Buyer‘s

Agreement in the layout plan. However, there was no access road of 90-

meters to the project, and/or 24-meters in the revised plans. The Apartment

Buyers were induced to book apartments on false representations made by

the Developer that construction of the project would be completed the project

within 42 months from the collection of the initial booking amount.

As per Clause 13.3 of the Agreement, possession was to be handed

over within a period of 42 months from the date of approval of the Building

Plans, with a Grace Period of 180 days. Despite the aforesaid terms, the

Developer had not offered possession to the Apartment Buyers till the date of

filing the complaint, even though the ―Commitment Period‖ for handing over

possession had expired on 22.01.2017, and also the Grace Period had lapsed

on 22.07.2017. The Apartment Buyers had regularly paid instalments as per

the demands raised by the Developer. As on December 2016, a total sum of

Rs.1,44,72,364/- had been paid by the Respondent No. 1 to the Developer.

To date, no offer of possession has been made to Apartment Buyers.

The Apartment Buyers submitted that the Building Plans were revised in

2017, when the entire layout was changed which led to the scrapping of some

of the residential towers, so that the same could be converted to commercial

towers in the project. It was further mentioned that the office of the District

10
Town Planner (Enforcement), Gurgaon, Haryana, vide a restraint order dated

20.02.2017 issued Memo No.525-526 to the Developer to immediately stop

the construction with respect to Tower-A and Tower-B for causing harassment

to the buyers.

10. The Developer filed its reply to the Consumer Complaint submitting that

there was no delay in offering possession of the flats, since as per Clause

13.3 of the Agreement, possession was to be handed over to the allottees

within 42 months from the date of approval of the Building Plans, which

included fulfilment of the conditions imposed thereunder. The Building Plan

approval had been granted on 23.07.2013, which stipulated compliance with

several pre-conditions, including obtaining Fire Safety Scheme approval. This

approval was granted only on 27.11.2014. Consequently, the 48 months‘ time

period for delivery of possession of the apartment would commence only on

27.11.2014, and expire on 27.11.2018. Consequently, there was no delay in

offering possession of the apartments. Hence, the complaint was premature

and liable to be dismissed.

11. The National Commission in another case titled as “IREO Grace

Realtech Pvt. Ltd. v. Ritu Hasija” being CC No.190 of 2017 and connected

matters, decided on 18.09.2018, held that clause 44 of that Agreement was

wholly unfair and one-sided, which gave only a limited right to the Apartment

Buyers to terminate the agreement, and seek refund of the amount paid by

them. Clause 21.3 of the Flat Buyers Agreement read in conjunction with the

other Clauses of the Agreement would result in a situation where a flat buyer,

despite the failure of the builder to offer possession within the time stipulated,

11
would be practically left remediless for 1½ years from the date of default, with

no interest or compensation payable to him, even though the money was

utilized by the builder. Even the principal amount would be refunded at an

uncertain future point, after the builder had sold the apartment allotted to the

complainant. Such a term was wholly unfair and unjust since the Developer

had the right to terminate the agreement even if a single default occurred on

the part of the Buyers, and forfeit the earnest money, and deduct other

charges specified in Clause 21.3 of the Buyers Agreement. Clause 44

postponed the right of the flat buyer to terminate the agreement and seek

compensation even after the Grace Period had expired, which was wholly

unfair and one-sided. The contract could be terminated after a delay of 12

months, and would be entitled to only delay compensation, without interest.

The Commission held that since the Developer had failed to deliver

possession of the allotted flats to the Apartment Buyers, it amounted to

deficiency in service, and the complainants were entitled to refund of the

amount alongwith appropriate compensation.

The Developer has filed SLP (C) No.40286 of 2019 against this

judgment, which has been tagged to the present batch of appeals.

12. This judgment was followed by the National Commission in the case of

Subodh Pawar v. IREO Grace Realtech Pvt. Ltd. & Others, decided on

24.09.2018. The SLP filed by the Developer against this judgment, was

dismissed by the Supreme Court vide order dated 28.01.2019, on the

statement made by the Counsel for the Developer that the amount due and

12
payable as per the order of the National Commission, shall be refunded within

a period of four weeks with interest @ 10% p.a. w.e.f. 27.05.2018 till the date

of payment.

A similar order was passed by this Court in IREO v. Surendra Arora

Civil Appeal (Diary) No. 48101 of 2018 on 28.01.2019.

13. With respect to the same project, an Apartment Buyer filed a complaint

under Section 31 of the Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Act, 2016

(―RERA Act‖) read with Rule 28 of the Haryana Real Estate (Regulation &

Development) Rules, 2017 before the Haryana Real Estate Regulatory

Authority, Gurugram (―RERA‖). In this case, the Authority vide order dated

12.03.2019 held that since the environment clearance for the project

contained a pre-condition for obtaining Fire Safety Plan duly approved by the

Fire Department before starting construction, the due date for possession

would be required to be computed from the date of Fire Approval granted on

27.11.2014, which would come to 27.11.2018. Since the Developer had failed

to fulfil the obligation under Section 11(4)(a) of this Act, the Developer was

liable under the proviso to Section 18 to pay interest at the prescribed rate of

10.75% p.a. on the amount deposited by the complainant, upto the date when

the possession was offered. However, keeping in view the status of the

project, and the interest of other allottees, the Authority was of the view that

refund cannot be allowed at this stage. The Developer was directed to

handover possession of the apartment by 30.06.2020, as per the Registration

Certificate for the project.

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14. The present batch of consumer complaints was decided by the

National Commission vide judgment and order dated 28.03.2019, which has

been impugned herein. The National Commission has allowed the consumer

complaints in terms of the earlier order passed in the Subodh Pawar case

(supra). The National Commission recorded the statement of the counsel for

the complainants that in order to avoid any further litigation, the complainants

were restricting their claim for refund of the principal amount paid to the

Developer, alongwith compensation @ 10% S.I. p.a. w.e.f. from 10.07.2017,

which was awarded by this Court to another allottee in the same project as

per Consent Order dated 28.01.2019 passed in Civil Appeal Diary No.48101

of 2018.

15. We have heard the learned Counsel for the parties. The issues which

have arisen for consideration are :

(i) Determination of the date from which the 42 months period for handing

over possession is to be calculated under Clause 13.3, whether it

would be from the date of issuance of the Fire NOC as contended by

the Developer; or, from the date of sanction of the Building Plans, as

contended by the Apartment Buyers;

(ii) Whether the terms of the Apartment Buyer‘s Agreement were one-

sided, and the Apartment Buyers would not be bound by the same;

(iii) Whether the provisions of the Real Estate (Regulation and

Development) Act, 2016 must be given primacy over the Consumer

Protection Act, 1986;

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(iv) Whether on account of the inordinate delay in handing over

possession, the Apartment Buyers were entitled to terminate the

agreement, and claim refund of the amounts deposited with interest.

16. The counsel for the Appellant – Developer inter alia submitted that :

(a) On the first issue, it was submitted that the period of 42 months

for handing over possession would commence only after the

conditions mentioned in the Building Plans were fulfilled. The

Apartment Buyer‘s Agreement in Clause 13.3 provides that the 42

months period would commence from ―the date of approval of the

Buildings plans and/or fulfilment of the pre-conditions imposed

thereunder‖.

Clause 17(iv) of the Building Plans duly sanctioned on

23.07.2013 issued by the Directorate of Town and Country Planning,

stipulated that:-

―17(iv). That the Coloniser shall obtain the clearance/NOC as per
the provisions of the Notification No.SO 1533(E) dated 14.09.2006
issued by the Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of
India before starting the construction/execution of development
works at site.‖
(emphasis supplied)

This stipulation has been affirmed by the RERA, a specialised

fact-finding authority in respect of real estate projects, while interpreting

the starting point of the 42 months period from the date of fire safety

approval. Since the fire safety approval was obtained on 27.11.2014,

the period of 42 months would commence from this date.

15

The due date for handing over possession of apartments must

be taken to be 27.11.2018 i.e. 42 months from the date of obtaining the

Fire Safety NOC on 27.11.2014, and a Grace Period of 6 months. In

this view of the matter, the complaint filed before the National

Commission was premature and liable to rejected.

(b) The Apartment Buyers were bound by the terms of the

Apartment Buyer‘s Agreement, which clearly states that the

―Commitment Period‖ would start only after fulfilment of the pre-

conditions under the Building Plan, and must be given effect to by any

adjudicatory body.

(c) Under Sections 15(2) and (3) of the Haryana Fire Service Act,

2009, it is the duty of the Authority to grant a provisional NOC within a

period of 60 days from the date of submission of the application. The

delay/failure of the Authority to grant a provisional NOC cannot be

attributed to the Developer.

(d) The Apartment Buyers was not required to pay the entire

consideration amount at the commencement of the agreement, in a

lump sum amount, since the consideration was linked to the

construction plan, and was payable in instalments at various stages of

the construction.

The Developer had not taken any instalment prior to 27.11.2014,

when the Fire Safety NOC was granted. The first instalment was taken

on 27.01.2015, when a demand for casting the lower roof slab was

16
made from the allottees. All substantial payments of the project were

based on milestones linked to construction.

(e) It was submitted that in large development projects, where

multiple towers are being constructed, delays are inevitable. The

Agreement contemplated a reasonable Grace Period of 180 days,

which is a standard clause in the construction industry. The Apartment

Buyer is not entitled to seek refund unless the Extended Delay Period is

over. In any event, the Apartment Buyer is being paid Delay

Compensation for the period of delay which has occurred during the

course of construction.

(f) The finding recorded by the National Commission that the

clauses of the Apartment Buyer‘s Agreement were one-sided and unfair

was illegal and without jurisdiction, under the Consumer Protection Act,

1986. It was only under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, which

came into effect from 20.07.2020, that the State Consumer Forum and

the National Commission were conferred with the power to declare

contractual terms that were as unfair to consumers as null and void.

Such power did not exist under the 1986 Act.

(g) It was further submitted that the National Commission was not

justified in passing the impugned order by directing a full refund of the

principal amount with interest @ 10% S.I. p.a. as compensation from

10.07.2017 till the refund was made within four weeks, failing which,

17
interest would be payable from the date of each deposit to the

Developer, till the entire amount was refunded.

(h) It was submitted that the Respondents in Civil Appeals No.7615,

7975, 8454, 8480, 8482, 8785-8794, 9139, 9216 and 9638 of 2019; and

the Appellant in Civil Appeal No.3064 of 2020, are defaulters since they

had paid only between 30 to 40% of the total consideration. These

buyers had breached their obligation to make payments as per the

construction linked payment plan. Despite this, the Developer had

made an alternate offer of similar units in the completed towers in

Phase 1 of the project where the Occupation Certificate had been

granted, before the expiry of the Extended Delay Period.

(i) It was contended that the decision of the RERA must be given

primacy over the National Commission. The impugned judgment

passed by the National Commission was in direct conflict with the

judgment passed by the RERA, Haryana since the National

Commission had assumed the due date for offer of possession as

23.01.2017. The RERA had correctly held that the due date for delivery

of possession of apartments under the Agreement was 27.11.2018.

RERA had directed the Developer to hand over possession by

30.06.2020, as mentioned in the Registration Certificate filed before the

RERA. In view of the conflicting views taken by the two Fora which

exercise original jurisdiction, it is the order of RERA which ought to be

upheld. Particularly, since RERA is a specialized fact-finding authority

with respect to real estate projects, it is the special law which must

18
prevail over the general law. RERA has been established under the

Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Act, 2016 (―RERA Act‖), for

regulation and promotion of the real estate sector.

(j) It was submitted that by 21.07.2017, the construction of Phase I

of the project had been completed, which comprised of Towers A6 –

A10, B1 – B4, and C3 – C7, for which the Occupation Certificate was

issued on 31.05.2019, and an offer of possession was made to the

apartment buyers.

With respect to the remaining Towers in Cluster-A comprising of

buildings A1 to A5; Cluster-B comprising of buildings B5 to B8; and,

Cluster-C comprising of buildings C8 to C11, the application for grant of

part Occupation Certificate was submitted on 10.09.2019, which is

pending approval.

The Developer made an alternate offer to the apartment buyers

whose allotments were in Phase-II of the project, where the Occupancy

Certificate has yet to be obtained, to transfer their allotment to a ready

to move-in apartment in Phase-I of the project, where the Occupation

Certificate had been issued.

The construction and development of ―The Corridors‖ group

housing project has now been completed, with Occupation Certificate

having been issued with respect to 700 apartments, out of a total of

1356 apartments in Towers A6 to A10, B1 to B4, and C3 to C7.

19

(k) The Consent Order passed in IREO Grace Realtech Pvt. Ltd. v.

Surendra Arora could not be relied upon to grant relief in this batch of

cases, since it was a Consent Order passed by the Court, and could

not be treated as a precedent.

17. In response, the Apartment Buyers have inter alia submitted as under :-

(a) The building plans were approved on 23.07.2013, and the

Developer was required to hand over possession of the apartments

within a period of 42 months from the date of approval, which expired

on 22.01.2017. If the Grace Period of 6 months under Clause 13.3 was

added, the Developer was required to give possession by 22.07.2017.

The Developer received the Occupation Certificate for certain Towers

of the Project on 31.05.2019. Possession was offered to the Apartment

Buyers in Phase I of the project in 2019, after a delay of 1 ½ years.

Assuming that the date for possession would begin from the date

of issuance of the Fire NOC i.e. 27.11.2014, the Developer was

required to offer possession by 27.11.2018. The Developer offered

possession in Phase I of the Project to certain Apartment Buyers only

after it received the Occupation Certificate in 2019.

With respect to the majority of the apartment buyers before this

Court, their allotments were in Towers which were in Phase II of the

project, where O.C. is yet to be obtained even as on date.

Consequently, there has been a delay of over 3 ½ years.

20

(b) The grant of Fire NOC was not a pre-condition for

commencement of construction work. In fact, the Developer had started

the construction before the grant of Fire NOC. Therefore, it could not

be contended that the delay in issuance of the Fire Safety clearance

had impeded the construction of the units allotted to the respondents.

(c) The Developer had sought payment of the first three instalments

prior to receiving the Fire NOC. The third instalment was paid on

18.03.2014, before the grant of Fire NOC.

(d) It was further submitted that neither the Building Plan Approval

nor Section 15 of the Haryana Safety Act, 2009 places any restriction

on the commencement of construction, which would be evident from

the fact that the Developer had started the construction before the

grant of the Fire NOC.

(e) The sanctioned Building Plans stipulated that the NOC for Fire

Safety (Provisional) was required to be obtained within a period of 90

days from the date of approval of the Building Plans, which expired on

21.10.2013. The Developer applied for the Provisional Fire Approval on

24.10.2013 after the expiry of the mandatory 90 days‘ period got over.

The application filed was deficient and casual and did not provide the

requisite details. The appellant submitted the corrected sets of

drawings as per the NBC-2005 Fire Scheme only on 13.10.2014, which

reflected the laxity of the Developer in obtaining the Fire NOC.

21
The approval of the Fire Safety Scheme took more than 16

months from the date of the Building Plan approval i.e. from 23.07.2013

to 27.11.2014. The Builder failed to give any explanation for the

inordinate delay in obtaining the Fire NOC.

(f) The Respondents placed reliance on the order passed in the

case of IREO Victory Valley Pvt. Ltd. v. Shamshul Hoda Khan,1

wherein the National Commission held that the Fire NOC was not a

pre-condition for commencement of the construction work. The Appeal

of the Developer was rejected by this Court vide order dated

03.05.2019, and the Review Petition was dismissed on 15.10.2019.

(g) The Agreement contained one-sided clauses, which were not

final and binding on the apartment buyers, and would constitute an

unfair trade practice. Reliance was placed on the judgment of this

Court in Pioneer Urban Land and Infrastructure Ltd v. Govindan

Raghavan.2

(h) The respondents submitted that they had availed of loans to pay

the instalments, on which interest @ 7.90% was being paid. On

account of the inordinate delay which had occurred, they were unable

to pay further instalments, and insisted on refund of the amounts paid.

1
Civil Appeal No.4801 of 2019 decided on 03.05.2019.
2
(2019) 5 SCC 725.

22
DISCUSSION & ANALYSIS

18. Determination of the date for handing over Possession

The first issue which has been raised by the Appellant – Developer as

also the Apartment Buyers, is the relevant date from which the 42 months‘

period is to be calculated for handing over possession. Clause 13.3 of the

Agreement states that the Developer proposed to offer possession of the

apartment to the allottee within a period of 42 months from the date of

approval of the Building Plans and/or fulfilment of the pre-conditions imposed

thereunder, referred to as the ―Commitment Period‖. The Company would be

entitled to a further ―Grace Period‖ of 180 days‘ after the expiry of the

Commitment Period for unforeseen delays beyond the reasonable control of

the Company. This would work out to 42 + 6 months i.e. 48 months.

18.1 The point of controversy is whether the 42 months‘ period is to be

calculated from the date when the Fire NOC was granted by the concerned

authority, as contended by the Developer; or, the date on which the Building

Plans were approved, as contended by the Apartment Buyers.

18.2 Section 15 of the Haryana Fire Safety Act, 2009 makes it mandatory for

a Builder/Developer to obtain the approval of the Fire Fighting Scheme

conforming to the National Building Code of India, and obtain a No Objection

Certificate before the commencement of construction. Section 15 is extracted

hereinbelow for ready reference:

―15. Approval of Fire Fighting Scheme and issue of no objection
certificate.—(1) Any person proposing to construct a building to be used
for any purpose other than residential purpose or a building proposed to be
used for residential purpose of more than 15 meters in height, such as
group housing, multi-storeyed flats, walk-up apartments, etc. before the

23
commencement of the construction, shall apply for the approval of
Fire Fighting Scheme conforming to National Building Code of India,
the Disaster Management Act, 2005 (53 of 2005), the Factories Act, 1948
(Act 63 of 1948) and the Punjab Factory Rules, 1952, and issue of no
objection certificate on such form, alongwith such field as may be
prescribed.

(2) The Director or any officer duly authorised by him in this behalf,
may take cognizance of any application and issue such instructions and
orders regarding the building plan and for construction by issuing a
provisional no objection certificate before the construction is taken up.
Explanation. –In case any person proposes to increase the number of
floors on any building already constructed in such a manner that it shall
qualify for being termed as a high rise building, shall before construction,
apply for no objection certificate.

(3) The provisional no objection certificate shall be issued within 60
days of submission of application along with such fee, as may be
prescribed, giving all the details of the construction being undertaken as
well as the rescue, fire prevention and fire safety details required to be
incorporated during the period of construction.
(4) During the process of construction, the inspection of the
construction may be conducted and the advice about any additions,
deviations, modifications that are required to be carried out from the
precaution and prevention point of view, may be tendered. Such advice
shall be made on a prescribed proforma and handed over to the party
concerned.

(5) On completion of the construction of the high-rise building, a no
objection certificate shall be obtained. In the absence of such certificate,
the owner shall not occupy, lease or sell the building.‖
(emphasis supplied)

18.3 Clause 13.3 of the Apartment Buyer‘s Agreement provides that the 42

months‘ period has to be calculated from the date of approval of the Building

Plans and/or fulfilment of the pre-conditions imposed thereunder.

18.4 The Building Plans sanctioned by the Directorate of Town and Country

Planning, Haryana contained the Terms & Conditions of Approval, which

included a provision for Fire Safety contained in Clause (3). The Developer

was directed to submit Fire Safety Plans indicating the complete Fire

Protection Arrangements, and means of escape/access for the proposed

building with suitable legend and standard signs.

24
Clause 3 of the Building Plans contained a provision for Fire Safety,

which reads :

―3. FIRE SAFETY
On receipt of the above request the Commissioner, Municipal Corporation,
Gurgaon after satisfying himself that the entire fire protection measures
proposed for the above buildings are as per NBC and other Fire Safety Bye
Laws, and would issue a NOC from Fire safety and means of
escape/access point of view. This clearance/NOC from Fire Authority shall
be submitted in this office along with a set of plans duty signed by the
Commissioner, Municipal Corporation, Gurgaon within a period of 90 days
from the date of issuance of sanction of building plans. Further, it is also
made clear that no permission for occupancy of the building shall be issued
by Commissioner, Municipal Corporation, Gurgaon unless he is satisfied
that adequate fire fighting measures have been installed by you and
suitable external fire fighting infrastructure has been created at Gurgaon,
by Municipal Corporation, Gurgaon. A clearance to this effect shall be
obtained from the Commissioner, Municipal Corporation, Gurgaon before
grant of occupation certificate by the Director General.‖

18.5 On receipt of the Fire Plans, the Commissioner, Municipal Corporation,

Gurgaon, after satisfying himself with the entire fire protection measures as in

conformity with the National Building Code, 2005 (―NBC‖) and the Fire Safety

Bye-Laws, would issue an NOC for Fire Safety. This NOC/Clearance was

required to be submitted before the Municipal Corporation, within a period of

90 days‘ from the issuance of the sanctioned Building Plans.

18.6 Clause 17(iv) of the sanctioned Plan stipulated that the Developer shall

obtain an NOC from the Ministry of Environment & Forests, before starting the

construction/execution of development works at site.

―17 (iv) That the Developer shall obtain the clearance/NOC as per the
provisions of the Notification No. S.O. 1533(E) dated 14.09.2006 issued by
Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India before starting
the construction/execution of development works at site.‖
(emphasis supplied)

18.7 The Environmental Clearance granted by the Ministry of Environment &

Forest Government of Haryana on 12.12.2013 required the Developer to

25
submit a copy of the Fire Safety Plan approved by the Fire Department,

before commencing construction of the project.

General Condition (vi) under Part B of the Environmental Clearance

stipulated that the Developer shall obtain all other statutory clearances,

including the approval from the Fire Department, prior to construction of the

project.

Clause (vi) provides that :

“(vi) All other statutory clearance such as the approvals for storage of
diesel from Chief Controller of Explosive, Fire Department, Civil Aviation
Department, Forest Conservation Act, 1980 and Wildlife (Protection) Act,
1972, Forest Act, 1927, PLPA 1900 etc. shall be obtained as applicable by
project proponents from the respective authorities prior to construction of
the project.‖
(emphasis supplied)

18.8 We are of the view that it was a mandatory requirement under the

Haryana Fire Safety Act, 2009 to obtain the Fire NOC before commencement

of construction activity. This requirement is stipulated in the sanctioned

Building Plans, as also in the Environment Clearance.

18.9 The 42 months‘ period in Clause 13.3. of the Agreement for handing

over possession of the apartments would be required to be computed from

the date on which Fire NOC was issued, and not from the date of the Building

Plans being sanctioned.

18.10 In the present case, the Developer obtained approval of the Building

Plans from the Directorate, Town and Country Planning, Haryana, on

23.07.2013. The Developer applied for issuance of Fire NOC for the Fire

Fighting Scheme of the Group Housing Colony within the 90 days period

before the Director, Fire Service, Panchkula.

26
The Commissioner vide letter dated 30.12.2013 raised 16 objections

with respect to the proposed Fire Fighting Plan.

The Developer vide letter dated 22.01.2014 responded to the

objections, submitting that the objections had been cured, and requested that

the approval of the Fire Fighting Scheme be granted on a priority basis.

The Fire Department informed the Developer vide letter dated

28.03.2014 that the deficiencies in the application for Fire NOC had not been

cured. The Developer was granted a further period of 15 days‘ to cure the

defects, failing which, its application would be deemed to be rejected.

The Developer submitted revised drawings as per the NBC Fire

Scheme alongwith its letter dated 18.08.2014. This letter was received in the

office of the Municipal Corporation on 13.10.2014, as per endorsement on the

said letter.

18.11 On 27.11.2014, the Director, Haryana Fire Service granted approval to

the Fire Fighting Scheme subject to the conditions mentioned therein. The

computation of the period for handing over possession would be computed

from this date. The Commitment Period of 42 months plus the Grace Period

of 6 months from 27.11.2014, would be 27.11.2018, as being the relevant

date for offer of possession.

The aforesaid chronology for obtaining Fire NOC would indicate a

delay of approximately 7 months in obtaining the Fire NOC by the Developer.

27

19. Whether the terms of the Apartment Buyer’s Agreement are one-sided?

The second issue which has been raised by the Apartment Buyers is

that the Agreement in this case, contains wholly one-sided clauses, and

would not be bound by its terms.

19.1 We have carefully perused the terms of the Agreement, and an

analysis of the same reveals that :

a) Under the construction-linked plan, Clause 6 provided that the

apartment buyers would be required to deposit 20% of the sale

consideration within 45 days of booking of the apartment.

b) Clause 7.4 of the Agreement provides that if there is a delay in

payment of an instalment, the apartment buyer would be required to

pay Interest on every delayed payment of such instalment @ 20% S.I.

p.a.

c) Clause 13.2 of the Agreement provides that if the allottee fails,

ignores or neglects to take possession of the said Apartment in

accordance with the Notice of Possession, the allottee shall be liable to

pay ―Holding Charges‖ on the super area @ Rs.7.5 per sq. ft. per

month.

d) In contrast, Clause 13.3 of the Agreement provides that if the

Company fails to offer possession by the end of the Grace Period i.e.

42+6 months, it would be liable to pay Delay Compensation @ Rs.7.5

per sq. ft. of the super area for every month of delay.

28
Delay compensation at Rs. 7.5 per sq. ft. works out to

approximately 0.9% to 1 % Interest per annum. The price per sq. ft of

an apartment under the Apartment Buyer‘s Agreement was Rs.

10,350/- per sq. ft. The compensation payable for delay was Rs. 7.5

per sq. ft. The compensation payable by the Developer for delay in

offering possession works out to :

                   7.5____ x 100 x 12      =   0.9 % to 1% p.a.
                 10,350

     e)         Clause 13.5 provides that the allottee may opt for termination,

only after 42 months from the date of issuance of Fire NOC + 6 months‘

Grace Period, plus a further period of 12 months.

The Delay Compensation would be payable to the allottee only if

the termination was ―validly opted‖. The compensation was limited to a

fixed period of 12 months only, and that no other claim whatsoever,

whether monetary or otherwise, was payable by the Developer.

f) Clause 13.8 of the Agreement provides that the allottee shall be

deemed to have waived all its claims in respect of the area,

specifications, quality, construction, any other provision in the

apartment against the Developer upon taking possession of the

apartment.

g) Clause 21 provides for termination of the Agreement and

forfeiture of earnest money by the Developer, if the allottee neglects or

fails to make timely payments as stipulated in the Agreement, or fails to

exercise the options offered by the Developer.

29
Clause 21.3 provides that upon such termination, the Appellant

Company shall be under no obligation, except to refund the amounts

already paid by the allottee, without any interest, and after forfeiting

and deducting the earnest money, interest on delayed payments,

brokerage / commission / charges, service tax and other amounts due

and payable to it. The principal amount after the aforesaid deductions

are made, would be refunded at an uncertain future date i.e. after the

Developer had sold the apartment allotted to the complainant.

In contrast, the allottee is given a very limited right to cancel the

Agreement solely in the event of the clear and unambiguous failure of

the warranties of the Company, which leads to frustration of the

Agreement on that account. In such case, the allottee will be entitled to

a refund of the instalments actually paid, along with interest @ 8% p.a.

within a period of 90 days from the date of determination to this effect.

No other claim, whatsoever, monetary or otherwise shall lie against the

Company.

19.2 The aforesaid clauses reflect the wholly one-sided terms of the

Apartment Buyer‘s Agreement, which are entirely loaded in favour of the

Developer, and against the allottee at every step.

The terms of the Apartment Buyer‘s Agreement are oppressive and

wholly one-sided, and would constitute an unfair trade practice under the

Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

30
19.3 Section 2(1)(c) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 defines a

‗complaint‘ as :

―2.(1)(c) ―complaint‖ means any allegation in writing made by a
complainant that –

(i) any unfair trade practice or a restrictive trade practice has been
adopted by any trader or service provider;

(ii) the goods bought by him or agreed to be bought by him suffer from one
or more defects.

…. ‖
(emphasis supplied)

Section 2(1)(g) of the Act defines the expression ―deficiency‖ to include

any fault, shortcoming or inadequacy in the quality, nature and manner of

performance which is required to be maintained under law, or in pursuance of

a contract, or in relation to a ‗service‘.

The term ―service‖ has been defined by S. 2(1)(o) to include a service

of any description which is made available to potential users.

S. 2(1)(o) was amended by Act 50 of 1993 w.e.f. from 18.06.1993 to

include ―housing construction‖ within the purview of ―service‖. The amended

Section 2(1)(o) reads as follows :-

―2(1)(o) “service” means service of any description which is made available to
potential users and includes, but not limited to, the provision of facilities in
connection with banking, financing insurance, transport, processing, supply of
electrical or other energy, board or lodging or both, housing construction,
entertainment, amusement or the purveying of news or other information, but
does not include the rendering of any service free of charge or under a contract
of personal service;‖
(emphasis supplied)

In Lucknow Development Authority v. M.K. Gupta,3 this Court

discussed the legislative intent of including ―housing construction‖ within the

ambit of ‗service‘ as :

3

(1994) 1 SCC 243.

31
―2. …. A scrutiny of various definitions such as ‗consumer‘, ‗service‘,
‗trader‘, ‗unfair trade practice‘ indicates that legislature has attempted to
widen the reach of the Act. Each of these definitions are in two parts, one,
explanatory and the other explanatory. The explanatory or the main part
itself uses expressions of wide amplitude indicating clearly its wide sweep,
then its ambit is widened to such things which otherwise would have been
beyond its natural import. Manner of construing an inclusive clause and its
widening effect has been explained in Dilworth v. Commissioner of Stamps
[1899 AC 99 : 15 TLR 61] as under:

―‗include‘ is very generally used in interpretation clauses in order to
enlarge the meaning of the words or phrases occurring in the body
of the statute, and when it is so used these words or phrases must
be construed as comprehending, not only such things as they
signify according to their natural, import, but also those things which
the definition clause declares that they shall include.‖

It has been approved by this Court in Regional Director, Employees’ State
Insurance Corpn. v. High Land Coffee Works of P.F.X. Saldanha
and Sons
[(1991) 3 SCC 617] ; CIT v. Taj Mahal Hotel, Secunderabad [(1971) 3 SCC
550] and State of Bombay v. Hospital Mazdoor Sabha [AIR 1960 SC 610 :

(1960) 2 SCR 866 : (1960) 1 LLJ 251] . The provisions of the Act thus have
to be construed in favour of the consumer to achieve the purpose of
enactment as it is a social benefit oriented legislation. The primary duty of
the court while construing the provisions of such an Act is to adopt a
constructive approach subject to that it should not do violence to the
language of the provisions and is not contrary to the attempted objective of
the enactment.

6….. As pointed out earlier the entire purpose of widening the definition is to
include in it not only day to day buying and selling activity undertaken by a
common man but even such activities which are otherwise not commercial
in nature yet they partake of a character in which some benefit is conferred
on the consumer. Construction of a house or flat is for the benefit of person
for whom it is constructed. He may do it himself or hire services of a builder
or contractor. The latter being for consideration is service as defined in the
Act. Similarly when a statutory authority develops land or allots a site or
constructs a house for the benefit of common man it is as much service as
by a builder or contractor. The one is contractual service and other statutory
service. If the service is defective or it is not what was represented then it
would be unfair trade practice as defined in the Act. Any defect in
construction activity would be denial of comfort and service to a consumer.
When possession of property is not delivered within stipulated period the
delay so caused is denial of service. Such disputes or claims are not in
respect of immoveable property as argued but deficiency in rendering of
service of particular standard, quality or grade. Such deficiencies or
omissions are defined in sub-clause (ii) of clause (r) of Section 2 as unfair
trade practice.

….

A person who applies for allotment of a building site or for a flat constructed
by the development authority or enters into an agreement with a builder or a
contractor is a potential user and nature of transaction is covered in the
expression ‘service of any description’. It further indicates that the definition
is not exhaustive. The inclusive clause succeeded in widening its scope but

32
not exhausting the services which could be covered in earlier part. So any
service except when it is free of charge or under a constraint of personal
service is included in it. Since housing activity is a service it was covered in
the clause as it stood before 1993.‖

19.4 Clause 2(1)(r) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 defines ―unfair

trade practice‖ as follows :-

―2(1)(r) ―unfair trade practice‖ means a trade practice which, for the purpose
of promoting the sale, use or supply of any goods or for the provision of any
service, adopts any unfair method or unfair or deceptive practice including
any of the following practices, namely:-

                 …       ….      …                                                            ‖
                                                                            (emphasis supplied)


The said definition is an inclusive one, as held by this Court in Pioneer

Urban Land & Infrastructure Ltd. v. Govindan Raghavan,4 wherein this Court

speaking through one of us (J. Indu Malhotra) held :-

―6.1 …. The inordinate delay in handing over possession of the flat clearly
amounts to deficiency of service. In Fortune Infrastructure v. Trevor D’Lima
[Fortune Infrastructure
v. Trevor D’Lima, (2018) 5 SCC 442 : (2018) 3 SCC
(Civ) 1] , this Court held that a person cannot be made to wait indefinitely
for possession of the flat allotted to him, and is entitled to seek refund of the
amount paid by him, along with compensation.

6.2. The respondent flat purchaser has made out a clear case of deficiency
of service on the part of the appellant builder. The respondent flat purchaser
was justified in terminating the apartment buyer’s agreement by filing the
consumer complaint, and cannot be compelled to accept the possession
whenever it is offered by the builder. The respondent purchaser was legally
entitled to seek refund of the money deposited by him along with
appropriate compensation.

6.3 The National Commission in the impugned order dated 23-10-2018
[Geetu Gidwani Verma v. Pioneer Urban Land and Infrastructure Ltd
., 2018
SCC OnLine NCDRC 1164] held that the clauses relied upon by the builder
were wholly one-sided, unfair and unreasonable, and could not be relied
upon. The Law Commission of India in its 199th Report, addressed the
issue of ―Unfair (Procedural & Substantive) Terms in Contract‖. The Law
Commission inter alia recommended that a legislation be enacted to

4
(2019) 5 SCC 725.

33

counter such unfair terms in contracts. In the draft legislation provided in the
Report, it was stated that:

―… a contract or a term thereof is substantively unfair if such
contract or the term thereof is in itself harsh, oppressive or
unconscionable to one of the parties.‖

6.8. A term of a contract will not be final and binding if it is shown that the
flat purchasers had no option but to sign on the dotted line, on a contract
framed by the builder. The contractual terms of the agreement dated 8-5-

2012 are ex facie one-sided, unfair and unreasonable. The incorporation of
such one-sided clauses in an agreement constitutes an unfair trade practice
as per Section 2(1)(r) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 since it adopts
unfair methods or practices for the purpose of selling the flats by the
builder.‖

19.5 In a similar case, this Court in Wg. Cdr. Arifur Rahman Khan & Others

v. DLF Southern Homes Pvt. Ltd.,5 affirmed the view taken in Pioneer (supra),

and held that the terms of the agreement authored by the Developer does not

maintain a level platform between the Developer and the flat purchaser. The

stringent terms imposed on the flat purchaser are not in consonance with the

obligation of the Developer to meet the timelines for construction and handing

over possession, and do not reflect an even bargain. The failure of the

Developer to comply with the contractual obligation to provide the flat within

the contractually stipulated period, would amount to a deficiency of service.

Given the one-sided nature of the Apartment Buyer‘s Agreement, the

consumer fora had the jurisdiction to award just and reasonable

compensation as an incident of the power to direct removal of deficiency in

service.

19.6 Section 14 of the 1986 Act empowers the Consumer Fora to redress

the deficiency of service by issuing directions to the Builder, and compensate

5
2020 SCC Online SC 667.

34
the consumer for the loss or injury caused by the opposite party, or discontinue

the unfair or restrictive trade practices.

19.7 We are of the view that the incorporation of such one-sided and

unreasonable clauses in the Apartment Buyer‘s Agreement constitutes an

unfair trade practice under Section 2(1)(r) of the Consumer Protection Act.

Even under the 1986 Act, the powers of the consumer fora were in no manner

constrained to declare a contractual term as unfair or one-sided as an incident

of the power to discontinue unfair or restrictive trade practices. An ―unfair

contract‖ has been defined under the 2019 Act, and powers have been

conferred on the State Consumer Fora and the National Commission to declare

contractual terms which are unfair, as null and void. This is a statutory

recognition of a power which was implicit under the 1986 Act.

In view of the above, we hold that the Developer cannot compel the

apartment buyers to be bound by the one-sided contractual terms contained in

the Apartment Buyer‘s Agreement.

20. Whether primacy to be given to RERA over the Consumer Protection Act

20.1 The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was enacted to protect the

interests of consumers, and provide a remedy for better protection of the

interests of consumers, including the right to seek redressal against unfair

trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation.

The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Consumer Protection

Bill, 1986 reads as :

“STATEMENT OF OBJECTS AND REASONS

35
The Consumer Protection Bill, 1986 seeks to provide for better protection of the
interests of consumers and for the purpose, to make provision for the establishment
of Consumer councils and other authorities for the settlement of consumer disputes
and for matter connected therewith.

2. It seeks, inter alia, to promote and protect the rights of consumers such as:—

(a) the right to be protected against marketing of goods which are hazardous to life
and property;

(b) the right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and
price of goods to protect the consumer against unfair trade practices;

(c) the right to be assured, wherever possible, access to an authority of goods at
competitive prices;

(d) the right to be heard and to be assured that consumers interests will receive due
consideration at appropriate forums;

(e) the right to seek redressal against unfair trade practices or unscrupulous
exploitation of consumers; and

(f) right to consumer education.

3. These objects are sought to be promoted and protected by the Consumer
Protection Council to be established at the Central and State level.

4. To provide speedy and simple redressal to consumer disputes, a quasi-judicial
machinery is sought to be set up at the district, State and Central levels. These
quasi-judicial bodies will observe the principles of natural justice and have been
empowered to give relief of a specific nature and to award, wherever appropriate,
compensation to consumers. Penalties for non-compliance of the orders given by the
quasi-judicial bodies have also been provided.‖
(emphasis supplied)

20.2 Section 3 of the Consumer Act provides that the remedies under the

Act are in addition to, and not in derogation of any other law applicable.

Section 3 reads as :

―3. Act not in derogation of any other law.—The provisions of this Act
shall be in addition to and not in derogation of the provisions of any other
law for the time being in force.‖

In Secretary, Thirumurugan Cooperative Agricultural Credit Society v.

M. Lalitha (dead) through LRs and others,6 this Court held that:

―11. From the Statement of Objects and Reasons and the scheme of the
1986 Act, it is apparent that the main objective of the Act is to provide for

6
(2004) 1 SCC 305.

36
better protection of the interest of the consumer and for that purpose to
provide for better redressal, mechanism through which cheaper, easier,
expeditious and effective redressal is made available to consumers. To
serve the purpose of the Act, various quasijudicial forums are set up at the
district, State and national level with wide range of powers vested in them.
These quasi-judicial forums, observing the principles of natural justice, are
empowered to give relief of a specific nature and to award, wherever
appropriate, compensation to the consumers and to impose penalties for
non-compliance with their orders.

12. As per Section 3 of the Act, as already stated above, the provisions of
the Act shall be in addition to and not in derogation of any other provisions
of any other law for the time being in force. Having due regard to the
scheme of the Act and purpose sought to be achieved to protect the interest
of the consumers better, the provisions are to be interpreted broadly,
positively and purposefully in the context of the present case to give
meaning to additional/extended jurisdiction, particularly when Section 3
seeks to provide remedy under 19 the Act in addition to other remedies
provided under other Acts unless there is a clear bar.‖

In National Seeds Corporation Limited v. M. Madhusudhan Reddy,7 the

jurisdiction of the District Consumer forum was challenged on the ground that

there was an arbitration clause in the Agreement between the parties. It was

contended that the provisions of the Seeds Act, 1966 would prevail over the

Consumer Protection Act. Relevant extracts of the ruling are extracted

hereinunder :

“57. It can thus be said that in the context of farmers/growers and other
consumers of seeds, the Seeds Act is a special legislation insofar as the
provisions contained therein ensure that those engaged in agriculture and
horticulture get quality seeds and any person who violates the provisions of
the Act and/or the Rules is brought before the law and punished. However,
there is no provision in that Act and the Rules framed thereunder for
compensating the farmers, etc. who may suffer adversely due to loss of
crop or deficient yield on account of defective seeds supplied by a person
authorised to sell the seeds. That apart, there is nothing in the Seeds Act
and the Rules which may give an indication that the provisions of the
Consumer Protection Act are not available to the farmers who are otherwise
covered by the wide definition of ―consumer‖ under Section 2(1)(d) of the
Consumer Protection Act. As a matter of fact, any attempt to exclude the
farmers from the ambit of the Consumer Protection Act by implication will
make that Act vulnerable to an attack of unconstitutionality on the ground of
discrimination and there is no reason why the provisions of the Consumer
Protection Act
should be so interpreted.

7

(2012) 2 SCC 506.

37
….

62. Since the farmers/growers purchased seeds by paying a price to the
appellant, they would certainly fall within the ambit of Section 2(1)(d)(i) of
the Consumer Protection Act and there is no reason to deny them the
remedies which are available to other consumers of goods and services.‖
….

64. According to the learned counsel for the appellant, if the growers had
applied for arbitration then in terms of Section 8 of the Arbitration and
Conciliation Act the dispute arising out of the arbitration clause had to be 23
referred to an appropriate arbitrator and the District Consumer Forums were
not entitled to entertain their complaint. This contention represents an
extension of the main objection of the appellant that the only remedy
available to the farmers and growers who claim to have suffered loss on
account of use of defective seeds sold/supplied by the appellant was to file
complaints with the Seed Inspectors concerned for taking action under
Sections 19 and/or 21 of the Seeds Act.

66. The remedy of arbitration is not the only remedy available to a grower.
Rather, it is an optional remedy. He can either seek reference to an
arbitrator or file a complaint under the Consumer Protection Act. If the
grower opts for the remedy of arbitration, then it may be possible to say that
he cannot, subsequently, file complaint under the Consumer Protection Act.
However, if he chooses to file a complaint in the first instance before the
competent Consumer Forum, then he cannot be denied relief by invoking
Section 8 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996. Moreover, the plain
language of Section 3 of the Consumer Protection Act makes it clear that
the remedy available in that Act is in addition to and not in derogation of the
provisions of any other law for the time being in force.‖

Subsequently, the judgments in Thirumurugan Cooperative Agricultural

Society (Supra) and National Seeds were followed in Virender Jain v.

Alaknanda Cooperative Group Housing Society Limited and others.8

20.3 Various judgments of this Court have upheld the applicability of

provisions of Consumer Protection Act as an additional remedy, despite the

existence of remedies under special statutes, including the Arbitration and

Conciliation Act, 1996. In Emaar MGF Land Ltd. v. Aftab Singh,9 this Court

has held that the remedy under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is

8
(2013) 9 SCC 383.

9

(2019) 12 SCC 751.

38
confined to the Complaint filed by a Consumer as defined by the Act, for

defects and deficiency caused by the service provider. The existence of an

arbitration clause was not a ground to restrain the Consumer Fora from

proceeding with the consumer complaint.

20.4 We will now consider the provisions of the RERA Act, which was

brought into force on 01.05.2016.

The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the RERA Act, 2016 read as

follows :

―THE STATEMENT OF OBJECTS AND REASONS
The real estate sector plays a catalytic role in fulfilling the need and demand
for housing and infrastructure in the country. While this sector has grown
significantly in recent years, it has been largely unregulated, with absence
of professionalism and standardisation and lack of adequate consumer
protection. Though the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is available as a
forum to the buyers in the real estate market, the recourse is only curative
and is not adequate to address all the concerns of buyers and promoters in
that sector. The lack of standardisation has been a constraint to the healthy
and orderly growth of industry. Therefore, the need for regulating the sector
has been emphasised in various forums.

In view of the above, it becomes necessary to have a Central legislation,
namely, the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2013 in the
interests of effective consumer protection, uniformity and standardisation of
business practices and the transactions in the real estate sector. The
proposed Bill provides for the establishment of the Real Estate Regulatory
Authority (the Authority) for regulation and promotion of real estate sector
and to ensure sale of plot, apartment or building, as the case may be, in an
efficient and transparent manner and to protect the interest of consumers in
real estate sector and establish the Real Estate Appellate Tribunal to hear
appeals from the decisions, directions or orders of the Authority.

(emphasis supplied)

20.5 Section 18 of the RERA Act, 2016 provides the remedy of refund with

interest and compensation to allottees, when a Developer fails to complete

the construction or give possession as per the Agreement of Sale. The

remedies under Section 18 are ―without prejudice to any other remedy

available‖.

39
20.6 Section 71 of the RERA Act empowers the RERA Authority to

determine compensation payable under Sections 12, 14, 18 and 19 of the

Act. The proviso to Section 71 provides that a consumer has the right to

withdraw its complaint before the consumer fora in respect of matters covered

under Sections 12, 14, 18 and 19 of the Act, and file the same before the

RERA.

Section 71 reads as :

―71. Power to adjudicate. – (1) For the purpose of adjudging
compensation under sections 12, 14, 18 and section 19, the Authority shall
appoint, in consultation with the appropriate Government, one or more
judicial officer as deemed necessary, who is or has been a District Judge to
be an adjudicating officer for holding an inquiry in the prescribed manner,
after giving any person concerned a reasonable opportunity of being heard:

Provided that any person whose complaint in respect of matters covered
under sections 12, 14, 18 and section 19 is pending before the Consumer
Disputes Redressal Forum or the Consumer Disputes Redressal
Commission or the National Consumer Redressal Commission, established
under section 9 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (68 of 1986), on or
before the commencement of this Act, he may, with the permission of such
Forum or Commission, as the case may be, withdraw the complaint
pending before it and file an application before the adjudicating officer
under this Act‖.

20.7 Section 79 of the RERA Act bars the jurisdiction only of civil courts in

respect of matters which an authority constituted under the RERA Act is

empowered to adjudicate on.

Section 79 reads as :

“79. Bar of jurisdiction: No civil court shall have jurisdiction to entertain
any suit or proceeding in respect of any matter which the Authority or the
adjudicating officer or the Appellate Tribunal is empowered by or under this
Act to determine and no injunction shall be granted by any court or other
authority in respect of any action taken or to be taken in pursuance of any
power conferred by or under this Act.‖

20.8 Section 88 of the RERA Act is akin to Section 3 of the Consumer

Protection Act, and provides that the provisions of the RERA Act shall apply in

40
in addition to and not in derogation of other applicable laws. Section 88 reads

as :

―88. Application of other law not barred: The provisions of this Act shall
be in addition to, and not in derogation of, the provisions of any other law for
the time being in force.‖

20.9 An allottee may elect or opt for one out of the remedies provided by

law for redressal of its injury or grievance. An election of remedies arises

when two concurrent remedies are available, and the aggrieved party

chooses to exercise one, in which event he loses the right to simultaneously

exercise the other for the same cause of action.

20.10 The doctrine of election was discussed in A.P. State Financial

Corporation v. M/s GAR Re-rolling Corporation,10 in the following words :

―15. The Doctrine of Election clearly suggests that when two remedies are
available for the same relief, the party to whom the said remedies are
available has the option to elect either of them but that doctrine would not
apply to cases where the ambit and scope of the two remedies is
essentially different. To hold otherwise may lead to injustice and
inconsistent results. …. Since, the Corporation must be held entitled and
given full protection by the Court to recover its dues it cannot be bound
down to adopt only one of the two remedies provided under the Act. In our
opinion the Corporation can initially take recourse to Section 31 of the Act
but withdraw or abandon it at any stage and take recourse to the provisions
of Section 29 of the Act, which section deals with not only the rights but
also provides a self-contained remedy to the Corporation for recovery of its
dues. If the Corporation chooses to take recourse to the remedy available
under Section 31 of the Act and pursues the same to the logical conclusion
and obtains an order or decree, it may thereafter execute the order or
decree, in the manner provided by Section 32(7) and (8) of the Act. The
Corporation, however, may withdraw or abandon the proceedings at that
stage and take recourse to the provisions of Section 29 of the Act. A
‗decree‘ under Section 31 of the Act not being a money decree or a decree
for realisation of the dues of the Corporation, as held in Gujarat State
Financial Corpn. v. Naatson Mfg. Co. P. Ltd
. [(1979) 1 SCC 193, 198 : AIR
1978 SC 1765, 1768] recourse to it cannot debar the Corporation from
taking recourse to the provisions of Section 29 of the Act by not persuing
the decree or order under Section 31 of the Act, in which event the order
made under Section 31 of the Act would serve in aid of the relief available
under Section 29 of the Act

10
(1994) 2 SCC 647.

41

16. The doctrine of election, as commonly understood, would, thus, not be
attracted under the Act in view of the express phraseology used in Section
31
of the Act, viz., ―without prejudice to the provisions of Section 29 of this
Act‖. While the Corporation cannot simultaneously pursue the two
remedies, it is under no disability to take recourse to the rights and remedy
available to it under Section 29 of the Act even after an order under Section
31
has been obtained but without executing it and withdrawing from those
proceedings at any stage. The use of the expression ―without prejudice to
the provisions of Section 29 of the Act‖ in Section 31 cannot be read to
mean that the Corporation after obtaining a final order under Section 31 of
the Act from a court of competent jurisdiction, is denuded of its rights under
Section 29 of the Act. To hold so would render the above-quoted
expression redundant in Section 31 of the Act and the courts do not lean in
favour of rendering words used by the Legislature in the statutory
provisions redundant. The Corporation which has the right to make the
choice may make the choice initially whether to proceed under Section 29
of the Act or Section 31 of the Act, but its rights under Section 29 of the Act
are not extinguished, if it decides to take recourse to the provisions of
Section 31 of the Act. It can abandon the proceedings under Section 31 of
the Act at any stage, including the stage of execution, if it finds it more
practical, and may initiate proceedings under Section 29 of the Act.‖

The doctrine of election is based on the rule of estoppel. In P.R.

Deshpande v. Maruti Balaram Haibatti,11 it was held that :

“8. The doctrine of election is based on the rule of estoppel — the
principle that one cannot approbate and reprobate inheres in it. The
doctrine of estoppel by election is one of the species of estoppel in pais
(or equitable estoppel) which is a rule in equity. By that rule, a person may
be precluded by his actions or conduct or silence when it is his duty to
speak, from asserting a right which he otherwise would have had. (vide
Black’s Law Dictionary, 5th Edn.)‖

In National Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Mastan & Ors.,12 claims for

compensation were filed both under the Workmen‘s Compensation Act, 1923

and the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. This Court held that the doctrine of election

was incorporated in Section 167 of the Motor Vehicles Act. The relevant

extract from the judgment reads as follows :

‗23. The ―doctrine of election‖ is a branch of ―rule of estoppel‖, in terms
whereof a person may be precluded by his actions or conduct or silence
when it is his duty to speak, from asserting a right which he otherwise
would have had. The doctrine of election postulates that when two

11
(1998) 6 SCC 507.

12

(2006) 2 SCC 641.

42

remedies are available for the same relief, the aggrieved party has the
option to elect either of them but not both. Although there are certain
exceptions to the same rule but the same has no application in the instant
case.

….

27. The first respondent having chosen the forum under the 1923 Act for
the purpose of obtaining compensation against his employer cannot now
fall back upon the provisions of the 1988 Act therefor, inasmuch as the
procedure laid down under both the Acts are different save and except
those which are covered by Section 143 thereof.

33. On the establishment of a Claims Tribunal in terms of Section 165 of
the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, the victim of a motor accident has a right to
apply for compensation in terms of Section 166 of that Act before that
Tribunal. On the establishment of the Claims Tribunal, the jurisdiction of
the civil court to entertain a claim for compensation arising out of a motor
accident, stands ousted by Section 175 of that Act. Until the establishment
of the Tribunal, the claim had to be enforced through the civil court as a
claim in tort. The exclusiveness of the jurisdiction of the Motor Accidents
Claims Tribunal is taken away by Section 167 of the Motor Vehicles Act in
one instance, when the claim could also fall under the Workmen’s
Compensation Act, 1923. That section provides that death or bodily injury
arising out of a motor accident which may also give rise to a claim for
compensation under the Workmen’s Compensation Act, can be enforced
through the authorities under that Act, the option in that behalf being with
the victim or his representative. But Section 167 makes it clear that a
claim could not be maintained under both the Acts. In other words, a
claimant who becomes entitled to claim compensation under both the
Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and the Workmen’s Compensation Act, because
of a motor vehicle accident has the choice of proceeding under either of
the Acts before the forum concerned. By confining the claim to the
authority or the Tribunal under either of the Acts, the legislature has
incorporated the concept of election of remedies, insofar as the claimant is
concerned. In other words, he has to elect whether to make his claim
under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 or under the Workmen’s
Compensation Act, 1923. The emphasis in the section that a claim cannot
be made under both the enactments, is a further reiteration of the doctrine
of election incorporated in the scheme for claiming compensation. The
principle ―where, either of the two alternative Tribunals are open to a
litigant, each having jurisdiction over the matters in dispute, and he resorts
for his remedy to one of such Tribunals in preference to the other, he is
precluded, as against his opponent, from any subsequent recourse to the
latter‖ (see R. v. Evans [(1854) 3 E & B 363 : 118 ER 1178] ) is fully
incorporated in the scheme of Section 167 of the Motor Vehicles Act,
precluding the claimant who has invoked the Workmen’s Compensation
Act
from having resort to the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, except
to the limited extent permitted therein. The claimant having resorted to the
Workmen’s Compensation Act, is controlled by the provisions of that Act
subject only to the exception recognised in Section 167 of the Motor
Vehicles Act.‖
(emphasis supplied)

43
In Transcore v. Union of India,13 this Court considered the provisions of

the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of

Securities Interest Act, 2002 (―SARFAESI Act‖) and the Recovery of Debts

due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1993 (―RDDB Act‖), wherein it

was held that there are three elements of election viz. existence of two or

more remedies, inconsistencies between such remedies, and a choice of one

of them. If any one of the three elements is not there, the doctrine will not

apply.

The judgment in Transcore was subsequently followed in Mathew

Varghese v. M. Amritha Kumar,14 where it was held that :

“46. A reading of Section 37 discloses that the application of the
SARFAESI Act will be in addition to and not in derogation of the provisions
of the RDDB Act. In other words, it will not in any way nullify or annul or
impair the effect of the provisions of the RDDB Act. We are also fortified
by our above statement of law as the heading of the said section also
makes the position clear that application of other laws are not barred. The
effect of Section 37 would, therefore, be that in addition to the provisions
contained under the Sarfaesi Act, in respect of proceedings initiated under
the said Act, it will be in order for a party to fall back upon the provisions of
the other Acts mentioned in Section 37, namely, the Companies Act,
1956, the Securities Contracts (Regulation) Act, 1956, the Securities and
Exchange Board of India Act, 1992, the Recovery of Debts Due to Banks
and Financial Institutions Act, 1993, or any other law for the time being in
force.‖

20.11 In a recent judgment delivered by this Court in M/s Imperia Structures

Ltd. v. Anil Patni and Anr,15 it was held that remedies under the Consumer

Protection Act were in addition to the remedies available under special

statutes. The absence of a bar under Section 79 of the RERA Act to the

initiation of proceedings before a fora which is not a civil court, read with

13
(2008) 1 SCC 125.

14

(2014) 5 SCC 610.

15

(2020) 10 SCC 783.

44
Section 88 of the RERA Act makes the position clear. Section 18 of the RERA

Act specifies that the remedies are ―without prejudice to any other remedy

available‖. We place reliance on this judgment, wherein it has been held that :

“31. Proviso to Section 71(1) of the RERA Act entitles a complainant who
had initiated proceedings under the CP Act before the RERA Act came
into force, to withdraw the proceedings under the CP Act with the
permission of the Forum or Commission and file an appropriate
application before the adjudicating officer under the RERA Act. The
proviso thus gives a right or an option to the complainant concerned but
does not statutorily force him to withdraw such complaint nor do the
provisions of the RERA Act create any mechanism for transfer of such
pending proceedings to authorities under the RERA Act. As against that
the mandate in Section 12(4) of the CP Act to the contrary is quite
significant.

32. Again, insofar as cases where such proceedings under the CP Act are
initiated after the provisions of the RERA Act came into force, there is
nothing in the RERA Act which bars such initiation. The absence of bar
under Section 79 to the initiation of proceedings before a fora which
cannot be called a civil court and express saving under Section 88 of the
RERA Act, make the position quite clear. Further, Section 18 itself
specifies that the remedy under the said section is ―without prejudice to
any other remedy available‖. Thus, the parliamentary intent is clear that a
choice or discretion is given to the allottee whether he wishes to initiate
appropriate proceedings under the CP Act or file an application under the
RERA Act.‖

21. Whether the Apartment Buyers are entitled to terminate the Agreement,

or refund of the amount deposited with Delay Compensation.

21.1 The issue which now arises is whether the apartment buyers are bound

to accept the offer of possession made by the Developer where the

Occupation Certificate has been issued, along with the payment of Delay

Compensation, or are entitled to terminate the Agreement.

The factum of delay in completing the construction and making the

offer of possession is an undisputed fact in this case.

21.2 In the present case, the allottees before this Court in the present batch

of appeals, can be categorised into two categories:-

45

i) Apartment Buyers whose allotments fall in Phase 1 of the

project comprised in Towers A6 to A10, B1 to B4, and C3

to C7, where the Developer has been granted occupation

certificate, and offer of possession has been made, are

enlisted in Chart A;

ii) Apartment Buyers whose allotments fall in Phase 2 of the

project, where the allotments are in Towers A1 to A5, B5

to B8, C8 to C11, where the Occupation Certificate has

not been granted so far, are set out in Chart B below.

46
CHART A

APARTMENTS WHERE O.C. OBTAINED BY DEVELOPER

S. Cause Title & Particulars of Amount Paid Possession of Status
No. Civil Appeal No. Allotment by the Flat offered on
Apartment
Sale Consideration Buyer on the
date of filing of
Complaint
1 C.A. No.5785/2019 Unit CD-C4-04-402 Rs. Possession
1,44,72,364/- offered on
IREO Grace Tower C4 28.06.2019
Realtech Private
Ltd. Rs.1,45,22,006/-

         v. Abhishek
           Khanna


2     C.A. No.8480/2019    Unit CD-B3-09-904     Rs.                  Possession
                                                 1,70,32,041/-         offered on
         IREO Grace            Tower B3                               28.06.2019.
       Realtech Private
            Ltd. v.       Rs.1,73,06,088.42/-
      Promila Kashyap &
           Another


3.    C.A. No.3064/2020    Unit CD-A6-02-203     Rs.1,59,29,016/-     Possession       An        Affidavit
                                                                      offered on       dt.16.09.2019
      Parvesh Maggoo v.        Tower A6                               14.06.2019       was filed by the
         IREO Grace                                                                    Developer before
       Realtech Pvt. Ltd. Rs.1,70,08,0261.56/-                                         the       National
                                                                                       Company       Law
                                                                                       Tribunal
                                                                                       undertaking     to
                                                                                       refund         the
                                                                                       principal amount
                                                                                       of
                                                                                       Rs.1,59,29,016/
                                                                                       to the Apartment
                                                                                       Buyer.
                                                                                       However,       the
                                                                                       Developer    has
                                                                                       not refunded the
                                                                                       amount so far.




                                                 47
                                              CHART B

APARTMENTS WHERE NO O.C. AVAILABLE EVEN AS ON DATE

S. Cause Title & Civil Particulars of Amount Paid by Status of construction
No. Appeal No. Allotment the Apartment
Buyer on the
Sale date of filing of
Consideration Complaint

1. C.A. No. 7615/2019 Unit CD-A2-03-301 Rs. 60,60,828/- on After filing the Complaint, the
28.10.2016 4th demand for casting of
IREO Grace Realtech Tower A2 Lower Basement Slab was
Private Ltd. vs demanded on 1.2.2017.

         Daraksha Khan       Rs. 1,96,01,772/-
                                                                      No O.C. even on date.


2.     C.A. No.8482/2019     Unit CD-C9-03-303   Rs. 1,43,07,009/-    No O.C. even on date.
                                                 on 28.02.2017.
      IREO Grace Realtech    Tower C9
         Private Ltd. v.
         Gunish Chawla       Rs. 1,55,72,177/-



3.     C.A. No.7975/2019     Unit CD-A3-06-603   Rs. 1,80,50,068/-    Instalment No.10 for casting of
                                                 on 10.03.2017        Top Floor Roof Slab was
      IREO Grace Realtech    Tower A3                                 raised on 07.03.2017
         Private Ltd. v.
          Amit Arora         Rs. 1,92,17,760/-

                                                                      No O.C. even on date.
4.    C.A. 8785-8794/2019    Unit CD-A1-06-601   Rs. 61,22,733/- on   The 4th demand for casting of
                                                 20.01.2017           Lower Basement Slab was
      IREO Grace Realtech    Tower A1                                 raised on 10.01.2017.
          Private Ltd. v.
      Pradeep Kumar          Rs. 1,99,20,649/-                        No O.C. even on date.
      Gupta


5.    C.A. 8785-8794/2019    Unit CD-A2-11-      Rs. 62,05,441 as     The 4th demand for casting of
                             1102                on 24.01.2017        Lower Basement Slab was
                                                                      raised on 10.01.2017.
      IREO Grace Realtech    Tower A2
         Private Ltd. v.                                              No O.C. even on date.
      Monica Khuller         Rs. 2,01,86,365/-



6.    C.A. 8785-8794/2019    Unit CD-A1-08-802   Rs. 61,22,738/-      The 4th demand for casting of
                                                                      Lower Basement Slab was
                             Tower A1                                 raised on 10.01.2017.
      IREO Grace Realtech
         Private Ltd. v.     Rs. 1,99,20,649/-


                                                 48
         Neelam Mittal                                              No O.C. even on date.


7.    C.A. 8785-8794/2019   Unit CD-A1-04-401   Rs. 62,09,828/-     The 4th demand for casting of
                                                                    Lower Basement Slab was
      IREO Grace Realtech   Tower A1            On 24.01.2017       raised on 10.01.2017.
          Private Ltd. v.   Rs. 2,02,71,389/-
      Shiladitya                                                    No O.C. even on date.
      Gangopadhya


8.    C.A. 8785-8794/2019   Unit CD-A2-03-302   Rs. 62,05,440/-     The 4th demand for casting of
                                                                    Lower Basement Slab was
      IREO Grace Realtech   Tower A2            On 23.02.2017       raised on 10.01.2017.
         Private Ltd. v.
          Kartik Ahuja      Rs. 2,01,86,365/-                       No O.C. even on date.


9.    C.A. 8785-8794/2019   Unit CD-A1-12-      Rs. 62,38,594/-     The 4th demand for casting of
                            1201                                    Lower Basement Slab was
      IREO Grace Realtech                       On 23.02.2017       raised on 10.01.2017.
         Private Ltd. v.    Tower A1
       Gagan Preet Singh                                            No O.C. even on date.
                            Rs. 2,02,92,883/-


10.   C.A. 8785-8794/2019   Unit CD-A2-09-903   Rs. 58,55,695/-     The 4th demand for casting of
                                                                    Lower Basement Slab was
      IREO Grace Realtech   Tower A2            On 23.02.2017       raised on 10.01.2017.
         Private Ltd. v.
         Raman Narula       Rs. 1,89,41,277/-                       No O.C. even on date.


11.   C.A. 8785-8794/2019   Unit CD-A2-05-501   Rs. 56,88,308/-     The 4th demand for casting of
                                                                    Lower Basement Slab was
      IREO Grace Realtech   Tower A2            On 23.02.2017       raised on 10.01.2017.
          Private Ltd. v.
         Priyanka Gupta     Rs. 1,84,06,981/-

                                                                    No O.C. even on date.
12.   C.A. 8785-8794/2019   Unit CD-A2-03-303   Rs. 58,55,696/-     The 4th demand for casting of
                                                                    Lower Basement Slab was
      IREO Grace Realtech   Tower A2            On 23.02.2017       raised on 10.01.2017.
         Private Ltd. v.
           Raj Sethi        Rs. 1,89,41,277/-                       No O.C. even on date.


13.   C.A. 8785-8794/2019   Unit CD-A1-11-      Rs. 62,38,595/-     The 4th demand for casting of
                            1102                                    Lower Basement Slab was
      IREO Grace Realtech                       On 23.02.2017       raised on 10.01.2017.
         Private Ltd. v.    Tower A1
         Kunal Wadhwa                                               No O.C. even on date.
                            Rs. 2,02,92,883/-


14.     C.A. 8454/2019      Unit CD-B7-07-704   Rs. 1,16,87,089/-   No O.C. even on date.


                                                49
      IREO Grace Realtech   Tower B7
         Private Ltd. v.
          Vishal Dua        Rs.
                            1,38,83,798.04/-


15.     C.A. 9139/2019      Unit CD-C11-06-      Rs. 1,44,87,344/-   No O.C. even on date.
                            602
      IREO Grace Realtech
         Private Ltd. v.    Tower C11
        Mukesh Makkar
                            Rs.
                            1,56,79,491.91/-
16.     C.A. 9216/2019      Unit CD-A1-01-102    Rs. 63,29,440/-     No O.C. even on date.
      IREO Grace Realtech   Tower A1
         Private Ltd. v.
          Ritu Hasija       Rs. 2,02,71,389.77
                            /-


17.     C.A. 9638/2019      Unit CD-A2-06-601    Rs. 57,09,566/-     After filing of complaint, the 4th
                                                                     instalment for casting of lower
      IREO Grace Realtech   Tower A2                                 basement slab was demanded
         Private Ltd. v.                                             on 01.02.2017.
         Prabhat Kumar      Rs. 1,84,06,981.50
             Swami          /-                                       No O.C. even on date.




           Chart A allottees
           (i)    We are of the view that allottees at Serial Nos. 1 and 2 in Chart A are

obligated to take possession of the apartments, since the construction was

completed, and possession offered on 28.06.2019, after the issuance of

Occupation Certificate on 31.05.2019. The Developer is however obligated to

pay Delay Compensation for the period of delay which has occurred from

27.11.2018 till the date of offer of possession was made to the allottees.

(ii) Insofar as the allottee at Serial No.3 in Chart A is concerned, he has

filed Civil Appeal No.3064 of 2020 under Section 62 of the Insolvency and

Bankruptcy Code, 2016 before this Court. We were informed by the Counsel

50
for the allottee that the Developer had filed an affidavit dated 16.09.2019

before the National Company Law Tribunal (―NCLT‖) stating that it was willing

to refund the principal amount of Rs.1,59,29,016/- in four equal instalments,

and had produced photocopy of the cheques. The relevant portion of the

affidavit filed by the Developer before the NCLT is extracted hereunder :-

―3. Without prejudice to contentions and averments raised during the
course of arguments by the Corporate Debtor, the Corporate Debtor
explored the possibility of the settlement with the Petitioner and had offered
to pay the entire principal amount i.e. 1,59,29,016/- in a time bound manner
by way of 4 equal instalments, wherein 1st instalment starting from
16.09.2019. Copy of the Cheques by the Corporate Debtor for payment of
the principal amount in full is annexed herewith and marked as Annexure-

A.‖

Despite the said Undertaking given before the NCLT, the Developer

has failed to refund even the principal amount so far.

We direct the Developer to refund the amount deposited by the said

Appellant within a period 4 weeks from the date of this judgment with interest

@ 9% p.a. from 16.09.2019 (date of the affidavit filed by the Developer before

the NCLT). If this direction is not complied with, the Developer will be liable to

pay Default Interest @12% p.a. on the entire amount.

Chart B allottees

(i) Insofar as the allottees in Chart B are concerned, they have paid part

consideration, in most cases up to the 4th instalment till 2017, when they

found that there was no progress being made in respect of the Towers in

which the apartments had been allotted to them. It is an admitted position that

Occupation Certificate for Towers A1, A2, A3, B7, C9 and C11, in which the

allotments have been made for this category has not been issued by the

Municipal Corporation.

51

The apartments have not been ready for allotment even as on

30.06.2020, as per the date fixed before the RERA Authority.

(ii) The allottees submitted that they were facing great hardship since they

had obtained loans from Banks for purchasing these apartments, and were

paying high rates of interest. In 2017, when they realised that there was no

construction activity in progress, they were constrained to file consumer

complaints before the National Commission, and then discontinued payment

of further instalments.

(iii) The Developer made an alternate offer of allotment of apartments in

Phase 1 of the project. The allottees are however not bound to accept the

same because of the inordinate delay in completing the construction of the

Towers where units were allotted to them. The Occupation Certificate is not

available even as on date, which clearly amounts to deficiency of service.

The allottees cannot be made to wait indefinitely for possession of the

apartments allotted to them, nor can they be bound to take the apartments in

Phase 1 of the project. The allottees have submitted that they have taken

loans, and are paying high rates of interest to the tune of 7.9% etc. to the

Banks.

Consequently, we hold that the allottees in Chart B are entitled to

refund of the entire amount deposited by them.

(iv) In so far as award of compensation by payment of Interest is

concerned, clause 13.4 of the Apartment Buyer‘s Agreement provides that the

Developer shall be liable to pay the allottee compensation calculated @ Rs.

52
7.5 per sq. ft. of the Super Area for every month of delay, after the end of the

Grace Period. The compensation will be payable only for a period of 12

months.

The Apartment Buyers in their Complaint filed before the National

Commission made a prayer for refund of the amount deposited alongwith

Interest @ 20% p.a. compounding quarterly till its realisation. The Apartment

Buyers, in their submissions have stated that they have obtained home loans

on which Interest @ 7.90% p.a. is being paid, even as on date.

We have considered the rival submissions made by both the parties.

The Delay Compensation specified in the Apartment Buyer‘s Agreement of

Rs. 7.5 per sq. ft. which translates to 0.9% to 1% p.a. on the amount

deposited by the Apartment Buyer cannot be accepted as being adequate

compensation for the delay in the construction of the project. At the same

time, we cannot accept the claim of the Apartment Buyers for payment of

compound interest @ 20% p.a., which has no nexus with the commercial

realities of the prevailing market. We have also taken into consideration that

in Subodh Pawar v. IREO Grace, this Court recorded the statement of the

Counsel for the Developer that the amount would be refunded with Interest @

10% p.a. A similar order was passed in the case of IREO v. Surendra Arora.

However, the Order in these cases were passed prior to the out-break of the

pandemic.

We are cognizant of the prevailing market conditions as a result of

Covid–19 Pandemic, which have greatly impacted the construction industry.

53
In these circumstances, it is necessary to balance the competing

interest of both parties. We think it would be in the interests of justice and

fairplay that the amounts deposited by the Apartment Buyers is refunded with

Interest @ 9% S.I. per annum from 27.11.2018 till the date of payment of the

entire amount.

The refund will be paid within a period of three months from the date of

this judgment. If there is any further delay, the Developer will be liable to pay

default interest @ 12% S.I. p.a.

(v) The Developer shall not deduct the Earnest Money of 20% from the

principal amount, or any other amount as mentioned in Clause 21.3 of the

Agreement, on account of the various defaults committed by the Developer,

including the delay of over 7 months in obtaining the Fire NOC.

(vi) In Civil Appeal No.9139 of 2019, we were informed by the learned

counsel that the Respondent had made a request for refund of the amount

deposited since his wife was critical and required a lung transplant, to meet

the huge expenses of hospitalisation. However, the Developer failed to refund

the amount. During the pendency of proceedings, the wife has since expired

on 08.12.2020, and there are pending hospital bills to the tune of Rs.50 to 60

lakhs to be cleared.

We direct the Developer to refund the entire amount deposited by this

respondent alongwith Interest @ 9% S.I. p.a. within a period of 4 weeks from

the date of this judgment. The failure to refund the amount within 4 weeks will

54
make the Developer liable for payment of default interest @ 12% S.I. p.a. till

the payment is made.

The Civil Appeals are accordingly disposed of, with no order as to

costs. All pending applications are disposed of.

Ordered accordingly.

…………………………………………….J.
(Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud)

…………………………………………….J.
(Indu Malhotra)

…………………………………………….J.
(Indira Banerjee)
New Delhi;

January 11, 2021

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