National Consumer Commission Orders Builder to Refund NRI Complainants ₹5.40 Cr for Undelivered Flat in Pali Hill

National Consumer Commission Orders Builder to Refund NRI Complainants ₹5.40 Cr for Undelivered Flat in Pali Hill

Additionally, the commission awarded Rs 7 lakh for mental agony and litigation costs to the complainants.

Ashutosh M ShuklaUpdated: Thursday, August 31, 2023, 11:16 PM IST
article-image
National Consumer Commission Orders Builder to Refund NRI Complainants ₹5.40 Cr for Undelivered Flat in Pali Hill | representational pic

Mumbai: The National Consumer Commission has directed a Bandra-based builder to refund Rs 5.40 crore to NRI complainants along with nine percent interest for not delivering a flat they had booked in Pali Hill. The Commission stated that the builder had "manipulated" documents to their advantage before rejecting the complainants' contentions on various grounds. The interest, amounting to over Rs 6 crore, must be paid along with the booking amount within one month of the order. Otherwise, an enhanced interest rate of 12 per cent per annum will be applied. Additionally, the commission awarded Rs 7 lakh for mental agony and litigation costs to the complainants.

Case against the builder

The order, dated August 29, was issued by Justice A P Sahi, President, and Dr. Sadhna Shanker, Member of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission. The decision was made in response to a complaint by Minakshi Balakrishnan and another against Bandra-based M/s Qureshi Builders, Khalid Babu Qureshi, and Imran Baba Qureshi. The Balakrishnans had booked a 1,750 sq. ft. flat on the 12th floor of the Skyper building near Pali Market Road, Pali Hill, Bandra. They paid a total of Rs 5.40 crore in installments until October 2011, even securing a home loan for it. They received an allotment offer in May 2010, with the promise of possession within one and a half years. However, the builder never entered into an agreement, and after a significant delay in receiving the flat, the complainants requested a refund. In their legal notice to the builder, they alleged that the builder failed to acquire an occupancy certificate due to apparent unauthorized additional floors. The builder even extended threats when possession was demanded, refusing to meet at a neutral venue.

Grounds of complaint

The Qureshis contested the complaint on four main grounds: no builder-buyer agreement existed; the transactions were interest-free loans, appearing as an 'investment'; the issue was time-barred as the complaint was made in 2016; and the flat's value was Rs 10.40 crore, not Rs 5.40 crore. Towards the end of the hearing, the builder submitted additional documents, which the commission perceived as an attempt to prolong the process.

Throughout the hearing, the commission observed that the allotment letter stated the flat came with two car parks. The builder contested payment claims, producing certificates that showed Rs 3.60 crore from the Balakrishnans, along with flat details, and Rs 1.80 crore from one Meeta Mukherjee. After reviewing the records, the commission stated that the money was actually paid via demand draft, signed by Meeta Mukherjee, a bank representative.

"It is therefore established beyond doubt that the opposite parties were trying to take an unfair advantage of such incorrect endorsement in the bank account statement produced by them and repeated by the chartered accountant regarding the payment from Meeta Mukherjee," said the commission. It further noted that the payment entries clearly showed that the complainants paid Rs 5.40 crore and that the payment discreetly omitted mentioning the demand draft number to gain an "unfair advantage."

Builder-investor relationship proof

The builder also claimed to have received a Rs 7 crore cheque that was not cashed and an additional Rs 3 crore in cash, suggesting a builder-investor relationship. The commission noted that the same cheque numbers were used by builders for flat bookings in their Skyper project. It concluded that "opposite parties have filed documents contradicting their own pleadings.... This manipulation to deny their own admission by the opposite parties is evident, and their defense is not only doubtful but also unreliable, attempting to claim two cheques were offered for interest-free friendly loans."

The commission added that the builder failed to confirm allegations of an "investor-builder relationship," deeming the entire narrative presented by the opposite party as lacking credibility and deserving rejection. Since correspondence between the builder and complainants persisted until 2016, years after the last payment in 2011, the commission deemed the matter not time-barred, as a legal notice was issued in 2016. Given the absence of the flat's delivery, the complainants were entitled to a refund, concluded the commission.

RECENT STORIES

Mumbai Rains: City Welcomes March With Unseasonal Showers In Suburbs; Netizens Share Visuals Of...

Mumbai Rains: City Welcomes March With Unseasonal Showers In Suburbs; Netizens Share Visuals Of...

Mumbai News: Sion ROB Demolition Gets Postponed For 3rd Time; Experts & Commuters Say, 'Authorities...

Mumbai News: Sion ROB Demolition Gets Postponed For 3rd Time; Experts & Commuters Say, 'Authorities...

Amendment To IT Act: Centre Opposes Interim Stay On FCU Notification, Cites New Challenges From...

Amendment To IT Act: Centre Opposes Interim Stay On FCU Notification, Cites New Challenges From...

Mumbai: 28-Year-Old West Bengal Man Sentenced To 7 Years For Attempted Bank Robbery

Mumbai: 28-Year-Old West Bengal Man Sentenced To 7 Years For Attempted Bank Robbery

Bombay High Court Paves Way for Indrani Mukherjea’s Docu-Series On Netflix

Bombay High Court Paves Way for Indrani Mukherjea’s Docu-Series On Netflix