1. This appeal has been filed by the appellant Ravinder Chopra against the order dated 20.8.2014 of the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Punjab, (in short ‘the State Commission’) passed in Complaint No. 45/2012.
2. Brief facts of the case are that the complainant purchased a 3 BHK apartment for a consideration of Rs. 36,11,052 from the opposite parties. Earlier the flat was in the name of Mr. Parkash Maini, who had booked it after paying a sum of Rs. 4,50,000 and who had surrendered the flat and complainant purchased it on payment of Rs. 4.50 lacs vide receipt dated 21.4.2006. A total sum of Rs. 11,38,421 was paid on 17.3.2010 and buyer’s agreement was executed on 13.4.2011. In January, 2012, the complainant was telephonically informed to pay due instalment, for which the complainant asked 3 to 4 months’ time as he was hospitalized for cancer treatment. On 20.3.2012, the complainant got final opportunity to pay instalment along with interest of Rs. 1,37,654. Also, he got threat of cancellation of allotment in case of non-payment within 10 days. Therefore, complainant applied for loan, for which documents were required regarding the flat from the builder which were refused by the opposite parties. As complainant was getting threats from the opposite parties, he deposited post-dated cheque of Rs. 10 lacs to avoid cancellation of allotment but opposite parties refused to accept the cheque. Lastly the opposite parties issued cancellation letter of the allotment dated 26.4.2012, which was received by the complainant on 1.5.2012. On 28.5.2012, the complainant approached with sanction letter of loan to opposite parties to execute tripartite agreement with DHFL, but opposite parties demanded Rs. 5,00,000 in cash to execute the agreement. The complainant obviously refused to pay Rs. 5,00,000 which was being asked illegally by the opposite parties. Ultimately, the opposite parties denied executing the agreement. Therefore, complaint was filed to restore the flat with compensation.
3. The State Commission passed the following order on 20.8.2014:
“In view of these circumstances, we accept the complaint with a direction to the opposite parties to restore the apartment/flat in favour of the complainant on deposit of outstanding amount by the complainant along with interest within a period of three months from the date of receipt of copy of the order. In case the complainant require any tripartite agreement or some other documents are required to be given to the Loan Processing Authority, the Opposite Parties shall provide the same within 15 days from the date of receipt of the letter from the complainant or the Loan Processing Authority/Bank; with no order as to costs and compensation.
11. The Opposite Parties are directed to comply with the above directions, otherwise proceedings under Section 27 of the CP Act shall be initiated against them.”
4. Heard the learned Counsel for the parties and perused the record. Learned Counsel for the appellant/complainant stated that the complainant could not pay the instalments as he could not get the loan sanctioned from the bank as the opposite parties did not provide the relevant papers. However, by the time, the loan was sanctioned, the opposite party had already cancelled allotment and the opposite party did not sign the tripartite agreement for the loan. Although the State Commission has allowed the restoration of the flat, but the same has been allowed on the condition that the complainant pays total balance payment along with interest. Though the rate of interest is not mentioned in the order, it is apprehended that the same would be @ 21% p.a. as per the builder-buyer agreement. Obviously, this is one sided agreement and the complainant has signed only on the dotted lines as the booking amount was already paid to the opposite parties. There is no justification for a builder to charge 21% p.a. interest on the payment of delayed instalments as the bank loan is available at the rate of 9-12% p.a. Just because the complainant could not get the loan sanctioned in time, the opposite party cannot charge @21% p.a. interest for this period.
5. Learned Counsel for the appellant stated that the State Commission has failed to appreciate the fact that as such the refusal of respondent No. 3 to provide the requisite documents timely to the Bank, actually led to delay in sanctioning the loan in favour of the appellant. This clearly amounts to deficiency in service on the part of respondents.
6. On the other hand, learned Counsel for the respondents/opposite parties stated that the complainant had defaulted in payment of instalments and therefore, the allotment was cancelled. Still the State Commission has allowed the restoration of the allotment subject to payment of the balance amount along with interest by the complainant As per the builder-buyer agreement, interest is 21% p.a. on the defaulted amount. The respondents/opposite parties have not preferred any appeal against the order of the State Commission hence, if the amount is paid as per the State Commission order, the order will be complied by the respondents. Builder-buyer agreement has been signed by both the parties and is binding on both the parties. Thus, the complainant has agreed to pay 21% interest p.a. on the defaulted amount.
7. I have carefully considered the arguments advanced by both the learned Counsel and have examined the material on record. First of all, it is seen that the State Commission in its operative portion of the order has not mentioned rate of interest and therefore, both the parties are presuming that the rate mentioned in the builder-buyer agreement will be the required rate of interest.
8. As the builder is always in a dominant position and gets the builder- buyer agreement signed only after the complainant has paid sizeable amount of the consideration, the complainant has to sign builder-buyer agreement on dotted lines. The imposition of interest at the rate of 21% p.a. on the defaulted amount is also one such clause which clearly demonstrates unfair trade practice adopted by the builders. Clearly, this interest rate is very high particularly looking at the fact that the housing loan is available @ 9-12% p.a. interest.
9. The fact is that the complainant could not pay the instalments and vide his letter dated 28.3.2012 the complainant informed the opposite parties that he is pursuing the loan and he will make the payment by 30.4.2012. In the meanwhile, the allotment was cancelled on 26.4.2012. Thus, it is clear that the opposite parties cancelled the allotment even before the expiry of the promised date by the complainant, though it is also true that as the loan was not sanctioned by that time the complainant may not have been able to pay by that date. It is also seen in this letter that the complainant has not mentioned any requirement of documents to be obtained from the opposite parties. It is also true that if the payments have been delayed, the complainant has to make payment with interest. As interest of 21% p.a. as per the builder-buyer agreement is quite high and speaks of unfair trade practice on the part of the opposite parties, the order of the State Commission can be modified to the extent that the complainant shall pay the balance amount along with interest @14% p.a. instead of 21% p.a. However, if the
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complainant is not able to make this payment and wants refund, then, the opposite parties will have to make refund because the cancellation was done arbitrarily and within the time requested by the complainant. 10. Based on the above discussion, the order of the State Commission is modified to the extent that the opposite parties shall restore the apartment/flat to the complainant subject to the complainant depositing the balance amount along with 14% p.a. interest. However, if the complainant is not able to deposit this amount within three months, the opposite parties shall refund the amount paid by the complainant along with 10% p.a. interest within a period of two months after expiry of initial three months. The First Appeal No. 1082 of 2014 stands accordingly disposed of. Appeal disposed of.