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Consumer Panel Overturns Order on Flat Buyer’s Plaint as Representative Case

The commission recently set aside the Pune district consumer court’s order on May 23, 2016, which allowed a Kondhwa resident’s application, moved in the final stages of hearing, to convert his individual complaint into a representative matter.

The state consumer commission has ruled that an individual flat buyer’s complaint seeking removal of deficiencies in a housing scheme cannot be converted into a representative matter for all or other flat purchasers in that scheme.

The commission recently set aside the Pune district consumer court’s order on May 23, 2016, which allowed a Kondhwa resident’s application, moved in the final stages of hearing, to convert his individual complaint into a representative matter. The scheme is developed by a real estate firm from Mumbai and comprises two buildings having a total of 120 flats.

The commission’s bench of P B Joshi and D R Shirasao held that the consumer enactment has no provision for converting an individual complaint into a representative matter at such last stage of hearing. There is a separate provision for filing of complaint by one or more consumers on behalf of all others having same interest and such a complaint cannot be taken up without prior permission by the consumer court, it added. “The present complaint was not filed in such manner,” the bench said.

Ketan Shantilal Jain, a resident of Solitaire Kool Homes on NIBM Road, had filed the complaint against Mumbai-based Repton Properties Private Ltd, which has an office at Dhankawadi in Pune.

Among other things, Jain sought remedy for a two-and-a-half-year delay in handing over possession of flat as he was forced to stay in a rented facility while paying interest on the home loan. He complained of substandard construction like broken tiles in bathroom, poor sanitary block fittings among others. The complaint mentioned common relief measures such as the formation of a society, deed of conveyance, open space and parking space.

The commission observed in a matter involving numerous consumers having the same interest, the complaint ought to be only in respect of prayers which are common. This was not the case with Jain’s complaint. “There cannot be individual prayers and common prayers,” it said.

If the complaint was to be allowed as a representative case for all 120 flat buyers in the scheme, the same would have pushed it beyond the pecuniary jurisdiction of the district consumer court as well as that of the state commission and only the National Consumer Commission could have dealt with such a matter, the bench observed.

Pecuniary jurisdiction refers to the upper limit of the value of litigation that a consumer forum or a commission can entertain.“The district consumer court did not consider all these aspects of the matter and wrongly allowed the application by stating that the relief of formation of society and conveyance are mentioned in the complaint,” the bench observed.

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