Can't fleece plot seekers, consumer court warns land agencies
New Delhi, July 26 (IANS) In a ruling with far-reaching implications for those entering into land deals, the apex consumer court has said an agency that has failed to deliver an allotted plot cannot demand extra money while giving an alternative site.
The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has also asked the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) to pay applicant Shyam Sunder, who waited for 22 years for a plot in Haryana's Faridabad town near the national capital, Rs.25,000 in costs.
It is the "bounden duty" of the land agency to give the alternative plot to such an applicant and it "cannot charge more amount than for which the original plot was allotted", Commission Presiding Member J.M. Malik and Member Vinay Kumar said in an order.
Coming to Sunder's help, the commission said it was "difficult to hold that the inability of HUDA" to deliver him his plot "would cost the complainant a sum of Rs.66,725".
Sunder "is not supposed to pay the above (Rs.66,275) said amount for the alternative plot". Malik said poetically that "the law hath not been dead though it hath slept".
HUDA's chief administrator in Panchkula city and the authority's estate officer in Faridabad were criticised by the commission for the delay in delivering the plot and demanding additional money from Sunder who had applied for it in 1990.
"The plot should have been given within two years from 1990. The HUDA is also guilty for the above said delay; instead of helping the complainant he is being harassed," the commission said.
The land agency first allotted Sunder a plot in sector 46 in Faridabad. Since that plot was under litigation, the allotted plot could not be delivered to Sunder, a resident of Bhiwani district. He was later allotted an alternative plot in sector 45.
Sunder said in his complaint that he was shocked to receive a letter in May 2000 from HUDA demanding an extra amount of Rs.66,725 before the delivery of the possession of the alternative plot.
The national commission upheld the Panchkula-based Haryana consumer commission's decision holding the HUDA guilty of negligence and harassment of Sunder.
"The HUDA's revision petition is dismissed with cost assessed in the sum of Rs.25,000 to which Sunder is entitled," said the apex consumer court.
HUDA argued that it could not be penalised as Sunder had been informed in advance about the additional cost of the alternative plot.
"This was a condition specified in the document regarding alternative plot itself that the complainant would have to pay additional charges," said HUDA's counsel, claiming that the order passed by the land agency was correct.
He explained that it was beyond HUDA's control to give a plot similar to the one that was initially allotted to Sunder.
"We find it extremely difficult to countenance these contentions," said the commission, rejecting the land agency's plea.
The commission, however, refrained from intervening on Sunder's grievance that the alternative plot shown to him by the HUDA too had a shortcoming that a high tension electricity wire was passing over it.
It has been "brought to our notice that the new plot which has now been shown to Sunder is also not acceptable to him because a high powered wire connection runs over the plot itself. However, we have no concern with that", the panel said.
The commission accepted Sunder's plea for a waiver of the additional Rs.66,725 demanded by the HUDA for the alternative plot.
The commission's judgment is likely to bring major relief to plot applicants across the country who are placed in a similar position and opt to exercise their rights under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
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