The respondent / complainant who is stated to be a senior citizen, aged about 77 years, applied to the petitioner for allotment of a residential plot in Mall Mandi Scheme Amritsar under Pensioner’s category, depositing Earnest Money of Rs.1,65,000/-. The draw of lots for the aforesaid plot was held on 02.9.2009 and the name of the complainant was placed at Sl. No. 1 of the waiting list in Pensioner’s category. The waiting list was valid for a period of six months, in terms of a Circular dated 11.8.2006 issued by Government of Punjab, Department of Local Government. On 22.1.2010, within the validity period of the waiting list, one Smt. Harjit Kaur requested the cancellation of allotment of plot No.117-B, which the petitioner had made to her and sought refund of the amount paid by her as the Earnest Money. The complainant, on coming to know of the aforesaid surrender, requested the petitioner vide letter dated 11.4.2010, to allot the aforesaid plot to him. The request of the complainant however, was not acceded to, despite several requests made by him. He thereupon filed a Civil Writ Petition in Punjab & Haryana High Court being CW No. 8131 of 2013. The High Court vide order dated 12.4.2013, directed the petitioner to consider the claim of the complainant and dispose it of by passing a speaking order. Pursuant to the aforesaid direction, the petitioner allotted plot No. B-725 to the complainant at the rate of Rs.9600/- per sq. yards as against the price of Rs.6600/- per sq. yards, prevailing at the time the scheme was advertised. The cess charges were also increased from 4% to 6% and the rate of interest applicable on the balance payment was increased from 10% to 12%. The complainant made a total payment of Rs.6,53,900/-, inclusive of the cess charges but was not willing to accept the price of Rs.9600/- per sq. yds. He was also not willing to pay the enhanced cess of 6% and enhanced interest of 12% on the balance amount. He therefore approached the concerned District Forum by way of a consumer complaint.
2. The complaint was resisted by the petitioner which claimed that waiting list having expired, the complainant could not be allotted plot as per the request made by him.
3. The District Forum, having dismissed the complaint, the complainant / respondent approached the concerned State Commission by way of an appeal. Vide impugned order dated 28.2.2017, the State Commission allowed the appeal to the extent the price of the plot and cess charges were concerned and directed the petitioner to charge @ Rs.6600/- per sq. yds., along with cess @ 4% per annum. However, no relief was given to the complainant as regards the rate of interest payable on the balance payment. Being aggrieved from the order passed by the state Commission, the petitioner is before this Commission by way of this revision petition.
4. It is an admitted position that though the waiting list was valid only for a period of six months from the date of draw, i.e. upto 01.9.2010, Smt. Harjit Kaur sought to surrender her plot and applied for the refund of the Earnest Money which she had paid to the petitioner. Thus, one plot actually became available to the petitioner, during the validity of the waiting list, Smt. Harjit Kaur having sought to surrender her plot on 22.1.2010 the petitioner therefore, ought to have offered the aforesaid plot to the complainant. That however, was not done, despite the fact that the complainant was at Sl. No.1 in the waiting list and the plot already allotted to Smt. Harjit Kaur ought to have been allotted to him during the validity of the waiting list. The aforesaid act of the petitioner constituted deficiency on its part in rendering services to the complainant who was eagerly waiting for the allotment of a plot, his name being at Sl. No.1 in the waiting list.
5. The petitioner made amends by allotting plot No. B-725 to the complainant vide letter dated 06.4.2015, though it was done only pursuant to the direction issued by the High Court vide its order dated 12.4.2013 in a Civil Writ filed by the complainant. The allotment to Smt. Harjit Kaur having been made at Rs.6600/- per sq. yds., and she having surrendered her plot, the allotment to the complainant ought to have been made at the rate prevailing on 22.1.2010, when Smt. Harjit Kaur sought to surrender the plot which had been allotted to her. The petitioner while rectifying its mistake by allotting a plot of land to the complainant on 06.4.2015, could not have charged the price prevailing at that time since one plot had actually become available for allotment to the complainant during the validity of the waiting list, which was valid upto 01.3.2010. To this extent, the view taken by the state Commission does not call for any interference by this Commission in exercise of its revisional jurisdiction.
6. As per the circular dated 11.8.2006, prescribing a validity of six months for the waiting list, the Earnest Money of the persons on the waiting list was required to be refunded to them immediately on the expiry of waiting period of six months. The petitioner therefore ought to have refunded the amount of Rs.1,65,000/- to the complainant on 02.3.2010 when the period of six months from the preparation of the waiting list expired. That admittedly was not done. This was yet another act of deficiency on the part of the petitioner in rendering services to the complainant. By not refunding the aforesaid Earnest Money to the complainant, the petitioner gave an impression that repeated requests for allotment of a plot, consequent to surrender of the plot by Smt. Harjit Kaur, shall likely to be acceded to by the petitioner Trust.
7. However, considering that the payment to the extent of 25% of the sale price was made by the complainant only after issuance of the letter dated 6.4.2015 and thereby he continued to use the money which he would otherwise have paid to the petitioner had the plot been allotted to him immediately on receipt of the request dated 22.01.2010 from Smt. Harjit Kaur, the complainant, in my view should pay interest to the petitioner on the principal amount including cess deposited by him pursuant to the allotment letter dated 06.4.2015. Considering the rates of the interest prevailing at the relevant time, the complainant should pay interest on that amount @ 10% per annum.
8. It was contended by the learned counsel for the petitioner that a Consumer Forum cannot go into the pricing of the plot / flats since such pricing does not come within the ambit of the Consumer Protection Act and is not a consumer dispute. Reliance is placed upon the decision of this Commission in National Consumer Awareness Group (Regd.) Chandigarh Vs. The Housing Commissioner, Punjab Housing Development Board, Chandigarh, 1997 (2) CPC 609. I have perused the judgment relied upon by the learned counsel for the petitioner. In the aforesaid case, there was regular increase in the price at which plots were being allotted by the Housing Urban Development Department of Punjab to the general public. Therefore, it was not a case of deficiency on the part of the service provider in rendering services to the consumer. On the other hand, in the present case, the petitioner has been deficient in rendering services to the complainant since despite a plot having become available for allotment to him within the validity of the waiting list, no such allotment was made till 06.4.2015 and the prices applicable for allotment of residential plots were increased in the meanwhile. The petitioner cannot be allowed to take advantage of its own act of deficiency in rendering services to the consumer by firstly not making allotment to him, despite availability of a plot for him and then making the allotment at a later date at a hig
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her price. 9. For the reasons stated hereinabove, the revision petition is disposed of with the following directions: (i) The complainant shall pay interest @ 10% per annum on the principal amount including cess deposited by him pursuant to the allotment letter dated 06.4.2015. The interest would be payable with effect from 22.01.2010 when Smt. Harjit Kaur sought to surrender the plot allotted to her, till the date on which the above referred principal amount was actually deposited. (ii) The complainant shall be liable to pay the price of the plot at the rate prevailing on 22.01.2010 when Smt. Harjit Kaur sought to surrender the plot which had been allotted to her. (iii) In the facts and circumstances of the case, there shall be no order as to costs. The Revision Petition stands disposed of accordingly.