The Supreme Court Thursday said the power to direct refund of the amount and to compensate a consumer for the deficiency in not delivering the apartment as per the terms of the agreement is within the jurisdiction of the consumer courts.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice U U Lalit said under Section 14 of the Consumer Protection Act, if the commission is satisfied that any of the allegations contained in the complaint about the services are proved, it shall issue an order to the opposite party directing him to return to the complainant the price or as the case may be, the charges paid by the complainant.
“Power to direct refund of the amount and to compensate a consumer for the deficiency in not delivering the apartment as per the terms of Agreement is within the jurisdiction of the Consumer Courts,” the bench, also comprising Justices S Ravindra Bhat and P S Narasimha, said.
The apex court said that it is clear from the statutory position that the Commission is empowered to direct refund of the price or the charges paid by the consumer.
“A consumer invoking the jurisdiction of the Commission can seek such reliefs as he/she considers appropriate. A consumer can pray for a refund of the money with interest and compensation. The consumer could also ask for possession of the apartment with compensation. The consumer can also make a prayer for both in the alternative.
“If a consumer prays for a refund of the amount, without an alternative prayer, the Commission will recognize such a right and grant it, of course, subject to the merits of the case. If a consumer seeks alternative reliefs, the Commission will consider the matter in the facts and circumstances of the case and will pass appropriate orders as justice demands.
The top court said that the Consumer Protection Act and the RERA Act neither exclude nor contradict each other.
“In fact, this Court has held that they are concurrent remedies operating independently and without primacy. When Statutes provisioning judicial remedies fall for construction, the choice of the interpretative outcomes should also depend on the constitutional duty to create effective judicial remedies in furtherance of access to justice.
“A meaningful interpretation that effectuates access to justice is a constitutional imperative and it is this duty that must inform the interpretative criterion,” the bench said.
The apex court’s judgement came on an appeal filed by a developer against an order of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission which directed it to refund an amount of Rs. 2.06 crore with interest at 9 per cent per annum to the consumer for its failure to deliver possession of the apartment within the time stipulated as per the Apartment Buyers Agreement.
“We are of the opinion that the interest of 9 per cent granted by the Commission is fair and just and we find no reason to interfere in the appeal filed by the Consumer for enhancement of interest,” the bench said.