CONSUMER COMMISSIONS CAN ALSO HEAR BUILDER- BUYER DISPUTES
Acquiring and purchasing Real Estate is a major decision for a common man. People have often questioned their investment security while making such decisions. The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 also known as “RERA” is a legislation created to solely protect the rights of real estate buyers by ensuring that their investment in the ‘under construction projects’ is protected.
However, it has often become confusing to understand if the buyer should approach the RERA authorities for redressal or whether the buyer should seek remedy under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 which protects the rights of all those who are consumers of any goods and services. Hence, the jurisdiction of both the forums is unclear.
Amidst which, an even important question arises, i.e. Whether filing a complaint under one of the forums vitiates power of the other? And whether the same is barred by law, i.e. by the RERA Act?
To understand this better one needs examine who can file a complaint under these respective acts. Under S. 17 of the Consumer Protection Act 2019, any ‘consumer’ can file a complaint, the meaning of the word consumer is defined u/s 2 (7) of the same act. Under S. 31 (1) of the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 any ‘allottee’ may file a complaint, the word allottee is defined u/s 2 (d) of the same act and means the person to whom a plot, apartment or building has been allotted or sold.
These two definitions overlap in their meaning since an allottee is also a consumer. Therefore, it depends on the individual to approach either of the forums. However, certain provisions (S. 79) under the RERA, 2016 bar the jurisdiction of civil courts to take up cases that should be dealt before the RERA Tribunals.
Hence, can a Consumer Commission deal with a case where the consumer is an allottee and the Builder Buyer Agreement is in question? The Supreme Court in the case of Imperia Structures Ltd. Vs. Anil Patni [CIVIL APPEAL NO. 3581-3590 OF 2020] has answered this in affirmative and held that Consumer Commissions can also take jurisdiction of Builder – Buyer Agreements.