NATIONAL CONSUMER DISPUTES REDRESSAL COMMISSION
ORIGINAL PETITION NO. 195 OF 1995
Pushpanjali Farm Owners and Residents
Association, Bijwasan (Reg. No. S.27094)
C-31, Pushpanjali Farms, Bijwasan Road
New Delhi- 110061 ……….Complainant
Ansal Properties and Industries Ltd.
16- Kasturba Gandhi Marg
New Delhi- 110001 .........Opposite party
HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE J.M. MALIK,
HON’BLE MR. VINAY KUMAR, MEMBER
For the Complainant : Ms. Anusuya Salwan, Advocate
Mr. Vikas Sood, Advocate
For the Opposite party : Mr. R.S.Suri, Sr.Advocate
Ms. Suruchi Suri, Advocate
Ms. Pallavi Tayal, Advocate
PRONOUNCED ON: 11.9.2012
PER MR.VINAY KUMAR, MEMBER
Original Petition No.195 of 1995 is filed by Pushpanjali Farm Owners & Residents Welfare Association (hereinafter referred to as FORWA), against M/s. Ansal Properties & Industries Ltd. (referred to in this order as API). The matter has been heard on day-to-day basis between 24.7.2012 and 9.8.2012, when it was finally reserved for order.
2. A perusal of the record of proceedings since their commencement will show that neither party has pursued the matter for final disposal with any degree of urgency till this Commission took it up for day-to-day hearing. Also, through the entire course of these proceedings, there has been visible effort on the part of the parties to find an amicable resolution of the dispute. The Commission was first informed about such effort on 19.9.2002. In between, on two occasions i.e. 27.2.2006 and 8.10.2009 the complaint was also dismissed for default. On both occasions, it has been restored to its original position, on the request of the complainant to recall the dismissal order. The proceedings also show that on four occasions, between February and May 2012, the Commission was again informed about continued possibility of amicable settlement. However, no such settlement was reported till the conclusion of the hearing.
3. As seen from the complaint petition, the matter arises from a scheme promoted by the Opposite Party/API in 1979, as the Pushpanjali Farms Scheme. It was for development of individual farms on which the OP/API had proposed to build farmhouses for individual owners. The project details included developmental works like roads, water supply, electrification, sewage disposal etc. The scheme also contemplated maintenance of common areas, common facilities and other services, by a maintenance company called Star Estate Management Pvt. Ltd (SEMPL). As per the complaint petition, the scheme originally consisted of 189 Farms of 1.5 acres each, which was later modified to about 78 Farms of approximately of 2.5 acres each.
4. The Pushpanjali Farms Scheme, as advertised by the Developers, also carried a special feature in the form of a Country Club, to be provided with the following facilities—
“a) Swimming Pool
b) Tennis/Badminton Courts.
c) Sauna & Steam Bath
d) and other facilities.
Allegedly, there were long delays in execution of the developmental works and in acquisition of land for the same. The Complainant FORWA had a meeting with one Brig. Badlani, representative of the OP/API on 19.3.1995. Minutes of this meeting have been placed on record by the Complainant.
5. In para 27 of the complaint petition, the claims of the Complainants have been summarized as follows–
“(i) That the internal roads are not of the required width nor have ownership documents being proved at various places. The Ansals have failed to prove the ownership.
(ii) That tube-wells and electricity connection have not been provided.
(iii) That no drains have been provided for the internal roads nor the roads have been handed over to the MCD.
(iv) That 3 acres of land be allocated and construction of the country club with all the promised facilities like Swimming pool, Tennis/Badminton Court, sauna & steam bath etc. be commenced on this land immediately. On completion of the club it should be handed over to the Association who will operate it.”
6. The complaint petition ends with an alternative claim of Rs.357.18 lacs as compensation for deficiency in service. This includes a sum of Rs.310 lacs towards the Country Club. Thus, the complaint petition essentially revolves around two alleged deficiencies—
a) Delay in completion of developmental works.
b) Non-provision of the country club.
7. Per contra, the case of the OP/API, as seen from the evidence on record, is that it is a highly belated complaint, which is frivolous and vexatious in nature. In order to ensure brevity as also to keep a sharp focus, the main contentions of the OP/API, as emerging from its written response, are listed below—
· Sale deeds for individual farms were registered between 1983 and 1988. They did not contain any provision for the County Club. The complainants did not protest at that stage. Therefore, the entire complaint is barred by limitation.
· The Complainant Association gives no detail to show that it is engaged for all owners of Pushpanjali Farms.
· With change in the byelaws of MCD construction of farmhouses was to be permitted only on plots of 2.5. acres and above. Therefore, OP/API gave option to the farm owners in 1981 to either retain their farm size at 1.5 acres or go for additional 1.00 acre, if they wished to build the farmhouse. They were also given the option to seek refund with 9% interest. Hence the delay in execution of development works was due to change in the Municipal byelaws.
· The non-provision of roads and drainages as per plan is denied. The old scheme of construction of roads had to be aborted and a new scheme along with new layout plan was formulated. Depending upon sale of farms and acquisition of land, roads have been constructed. Drainage for internal roads was provided and the deterioration in its condition was due to maintenance problems, caused by non-payment of maintenance charges by the farm owners.
· It is stressed that work of maintenance and common services was separately handed over to SEMPL. The buyers had agreed to pay the maintenance and services charges to SEMPL. Non-payment of these maintenance charges is admitted in para 22 of the complaint petition itself.
· Without prejudice to the plea of limitation, the country club was found to be economically unviable due to low occupancy of the farmhouses as well as their unwillingness to pay the maintenances/services charges to the SEMPL. When the farm owners were not even paying the maintenance charges the question SEMPL getting involved in the project of the country club did not arise.
· With the decision to drop the country club, OP/API offered membership of the Chancellor Club at Palam Vihar, which is just 3 km. from Pushpanjali Farm and has better facilities.
· The National Commission does not have powers to give any direction in the nature of ‘do or desist’, in this matter.
8. We have carefully considered the pleadings, the records produced and the evidence led by the two parties and heard at length the two rival counsels, Ms. Anusuya Salwan for the complainant and Mr. R. S. Suri for the OP. From the rival positions detailed before us, the following issues are found to emerge for decision—
a. Can the complainant FORWA represent the individual owners of Pushpanjali Farms in the present proceedings?
b. Is the complaint barred by limitation?
c. Does the decision of the OP/API not to provide the Country Club, amount to a deficiency of service?
d. Was there any delay in completaion of committed development works ? If yes, does it entitle the complainant to receive compensation?
e. Is the complainant entitled to receive compensation of Rs 357.18 lacs, as claimed?
9. Can FORWA represent the Pushpanjali Farm owners.
The complaint petition filed by the FORWA is accompanied by an application under the Consumer Protection Act, signed by some of the purchasers of farms. It states that the complainants have same interest, have suffered identical deficiency of service and would need to rely on identical evidence. Therefore, the signatories have made the following prayer—
“In the light of the aforesaid facts and circumstances in order to meet the ends of justice and to effectively adjudicate the present dispute, it is, therefore most respectfully prayed that this Hon’ble Commission may kindly be pleased to grant permission to complainants to initiate and prosecute the present complaint through Pushpanjali Farms Owners & Residents Welfare Association, Bijwasan, for and on behalf of and for the benefit of all the complainants.”
10. Learned counsel for the Opposite Party/ API argued that it is not a representative suit. The complainant/ Pushpanjali Farm Owners & Residents Association did not even exist when the sale deeds for these farms were executed with the buyers. In reply, the counsel for the complainant explained that the letter of the buyers of these farms requesting the Commission to be represented by the FORWA is on record.
11. The counsel also argued that the application is covered under the provision of Section 2(1)(m)(iv) of the Consumer Protection Act 1986. In Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation and another Vs. Ashok Iron Works Pvt. Ltd, Hon’ble Supreme Court has interpreted the provision in Section 2(1)(m) in the following terms—
“Section 2(1)(m), is beyond all questions an interpretation clause, and must have been intended by the legislature to be taken into account in construing the expression “person” as it occurs in Section 2(1)(d). While defining “person” in Section 2(1)(m), the legislature never intended to exclude a juristic person like company. As a matter of fact, the four categories by way of enumeration mentioned therein is indicative, Categories (i), (ii) and (iv) being unincorporated and Category (iii) corporate, of its intention to include body corporate as well as body unincorporated. The definition of “person” in Section 2(1)(m) is inclusive and not exhaustive. It does not appear to us to admit of any doubt that company is a person within the meaning of Section 2 (1) (d) read with Section 2(1)(m) and we hold accordingly.”
Thus, this provision would permit even an association of persons, whether registered or not, to file a consumer complaint, if the requirements of Section 2(1)(d) are met. As for permission required under section12(1)(c) of the Act, the application seeking it is on record. In an earlier para, we have referred to it. We therefore, reject this objection advanced on behalf of the OP, at the threshold itself. We hold that FORWA is legally entitled to make this consumer complaint and be heard on behalf of the farm owners.
It is contented in the written response of the OP that the complaint petition is barred by limitation, as the letter of the OP dated 8.6.1995, which is made the basis for filing of the complaint petition, had itself stated that the issue of country club had been raised after a lapse of over 15 years. This contention needs to be seen together with the admission in subsequent part of the same para that in the allotment letters, the country club had been agreed to be provided. From paras 15 and 20 of the complaint petition, we find that the issue of failure to provide the country club was one of the matters taken up in the meeting of 19.3.1995 with Brigadier Badlani, representative of the OP. The relevant record of discussion of the meeting reads:-
“Brig. Badlani read out a section of the original allotment letter to each farm owner which stated that the Country Club would be provided and maintained by SEMPL. He also stated that at present there were not enough residents to justify a club. As no one had paid SEMPL any dues, there was no obligation for Ansals to provide the Club. He offered membership of the Palam Vihar- Chancellor Club at residents rates, in lieu of the Country Club. It was decided that the Allocation would take legal advice before making a decision on this matter.”
13. This unilateral decision to go back on the commitment, irrespective of its propriety or acceptability, required to be communicated by the OP to the Farms purchasers. The OP does not challenge it. However, as per its written response, it was only in the letter of 8.6.1996 that the OP had informed the decision not to provide country club, as it was found to be uneconomical. It is however, established that the OP’s decision not to provide the country club was for the first time informed in the meeting of 19.3.1995. The complaint itself having been filed in 1995 is clearly within the period of limitation from the date of cause of action i.e. 19.3.1995, in so far as the issue of country club is concerned.
14. Learned counsel cited the ruling of the Apex Court in Pancharan Dhara Vs. Menmatha Nath Maity, AIR 2006, SC, 2281, wherein it was held that while deciding upon the issue of limitation, the Court will first see as to whether any time was fixed for performance of the agreement. When no time limit was fixed, limitation will run from the date on which refusal to carry out the obligation was informed. Learned counsel for the complainant argued that the commitment/liability to provide the country club was for the first time denied by the OP on 19.3.1995. That is when the cause of action arose. Hence, there is no delay.
15. We are in agreement with this contention. The cause of action in the hands of the Complainant/Farms Purchasers would arise not from the date the alleged decision not to provide the country club was unilaterally taken by OP/API, but from the date it was communicated i.e. 19.3.1995. Therefore, the issue of limitation does not arise.
16. DEVELOPMENTAL WORKS
On the issue of delay in provision of other developmental infrastructure, the complaint petition itself says in para 12 that the internal roads and the approach roads were provided by the Ansals in a phased manner, as and when the land was acquired by them. It also says that the internal roads were provided, subsequent to 1994, though there were issues about their width. The matter was apparently discussed in the meeting of 19.3.1995 between the Association and Brig. Badlani, but the record of discussions mentions only one specific road for improvement.
17. We find from the written response of the OP that the position regarding provisions of roads and storm water drainage has been adequately clarified in the following terms:-
“With regard to the contents of para 9, it is submitted that what was promised was a 60 ft. wide roadway or right of way with trees on both sides which has been provided. The metalled portion of the road as existing is in accordance with the provisions of Municipal Bye Laws. The internal roads or the metalled width thereof were neither represented nor promised to be of 60 ft. width.
It is denied that storm water drains have not been provided. It is submitted that the complete storm drains as planned were provided. It is material to note that the work of maintenance, upkeep and operation of common services/facilities was to be entrusted to SEMPL and it was so agreed and consented by the buyers as per clause 12 of the allotment letter itself. The buyer had further agreed to pay maintenance and service charges to SEMPL. However, the farm owners did not pay the requisite maintenance and service charges to SEMPL, which is admitted in para 22 of the petition, and therefore, the maintenance and service of storm water drains has not been carried out.”
18. The above allegation of non-payment of maintenance and service charges has been admitted in the complaint petition. In another part of the written response of the OP, it is explained by the OP that there was change in the Municipal Bye Laws due to which, construction of Farmhouses was to be allowed only on plots of 2.5 acres and above. For this reason the Farm owner had to be given option either to withdraw from the project or to take additional 1 acres of land for acquiring eligibility to construct the Farmhouse or to continue to retain their farm size at one and half acres, without construction of the farm house. In this context, the letter of OP/API to the farm owners, dated 25.2.1982 not only informed the position relating to the change of farm size but also informed that the development works would start from March, 1982. The above position has not been challenged by the Complainant either in the subsequent rejoinder or in the arguments of the counsel. Only a bland statement has been made to the effect that there was no change in the new scheme with regard to promised development of roads, storm water drainage and other facilities. Therefore, in our view delay in execution of developmental works had sufficient cause. Accordingly, no cause of action would arise in the hands of the complainant on the issue of delay in execution of developmental works.
19. COUNTRY CLUB
Learned counsel for the Complainant Ms. Ansuya Salwan emphasised that when the scheme for Pushpanjali Farms was advertised, the OP/API projected the country club as a special feature in the brochure brought out on the project. Two plots were reserved for it in the original plan brought out by the OP. The counsel pointed out that in the written response of the OP it is also admitted that the OP had agreed to provide this facility through the SEMPL, on the terms and conditions to be decided by it.
20. The SEMPL was also entrusted with the maintenance of services and upkeep of common areas in Pushpanjali Farms. But as per written response of the OP—
“However, due to extremely poor response in payment of maintenance charges from the farm owners regarding the activities of SEMPL and economic unviability of the country club, not only the project of country club was dropped from the later allotment letters but also the role of SEMPL was completely extinguished.” (Para 2 of the Reply).
Learned counsel for the OP/API conceded that the OP was the promoter of SEMPL but argued vehemently that it is incorporated as and independent company and should be treated as such. However, the counsel has not made any attempt to explain how the SEMPL could have been unilaterally assigned the responsibility to fulfill an obligation/commitment of the OP and how could its role be ‘extinguished’ by the OP, if it were an independent company and not a subsidiary of the latter.
21. The complainant counsel drew our attention to the proceedings before this Commission in this context. On 21.4.2004, the OP was directed ‘not to dispose of the land, which was specifically earmarked for the club, if it is not disposed of by a registered sale deed’. On 10.2.2011, the Commission was informed that even if the two Farms (D-8 and D-10) had been sold by the OP, farm No.A-1 was available and suitable for use as club. It reportedly stood in the name of M/s. Delhi Towers and Estates Pvt. Ltd., which is a 100% subsidiary of OPs/API. The Commission therefore directed that till the next date of hearing fixed for 14.3.2011, the OP ‘shall not effect any change in the status of Plot No.A-1 in the Pushpanjali Farms’.
22. During the course of her arguments, learned counsel for the Complainant drew our attention to a document brought out by the OP/API in compliance with Chapter VIII of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Issue of Capital and Disclosure Requirements) Regulation 2009. In this document certain companies are listed as 100% owned subsidiaries of the API. This document has been brought on record with the affidavit of Shri Rajiv Ghai, on behalf of the Complainant. As per this affidavit, public issue document issued by the IDFC Capital Ltd. on 5.10.2010 shows that API and the DTEP Ltd. are companies where common control exists. This is also confirmed by the annual return of the DTEP filed with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.
23. Counsel for the Complainant also referred to certain sale deeds executed in favour of the purchasers of these Farms. These sale deeds refer to the agreement with the API but are executed by M/S Green Park Builders, M/S Suraj Construction and Estates Pvt Ltd, M/S Delhi Towers and Estates Pvt. Ltd, as vendors. Our attention was also drawn to the affidavit of Mr R A Gupta, Manager (Legal) of OP/API. Para 6 therein says—
“That M/S Delhi Towers and Estates (P) Ltd and M/S C Lyall & Co. (Construction) (Pvt) Ltd both are sister companies of M/S Ansal Properties & Infrastructure Ltd (formerly Ansal Properties & Industries Ltd).”
The counsel argued forcefully that M/S DTEP was only a subsidiary of the OP company and therefore, the fact that farm A-1 was owned by it, should not prevent the OP from using it for provision of the country club. It was argued that this Commission must lift the ‘corporate veil’ of the DTEP as a separate company. Learned counsel relied upon the decision of Hon’ble Supreme Court in Delhi Development Authority Vs. Skipper Construction Co. (P) Ltd., (1996) 4 SCC 622. The respondent had purchased a plot of land in auction held by the appellant DDA, but failed to pay the bid amount. The cancellation of allotment by the DDA was stayed by the High Court of Delhi. The respondent went ahead selling the place in the proposed building to the various buyers. However, eventually he was directed by the Delhi High Court to pay more than Rs. 8 Crores within 30 days and to stop construction on the plot until the payment was made. Against this order, the respondent went in SLP to Supreme Court and was granted interim relief subject to payment of Rs. 5 Crore and prohibition from creating any rights in favour of third parties. Despite the prohibitory orders, the respondent went about selling space in the proposed building to various persons. The Supreme Court started suo moto contempt proceedings against two Directors of the Company and imposed sentences of fine and imprisonment upon them. The Supreme Court has observed:-
“The concept of corporate entity was evolved to encourage and promote trade and commerce but not to commit illegalities or to defraud people. Where, therefore, the corporate character is employed for the purpose of committing illegality or for defrauding others, the court would ignore the corporate character and will look at the reality behind the corporate veil so as to enable it to pass appropriate orders to do justice between the parties concerned. The fact that T and members of his family have created several corporate bodies does not prevent the Supreme Court from treating all of them as one entity belonging to an controlled by T and family if it is found that these corporate bodies are merely cloaks behind which lurks T and/or members of his family and that the device of incorporation was really a ploy adopted for committing illegalities and/or to defraud people.”
In our view, this decision is equally applicable to the facts of the present case. However, learned counsel for the OP has sought to rely the decision of the Allahabad High Court in Frontier Alloy Steels Ltd. Vs. Union of India and the decision of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in Krishi Foundry Employees Union Vs. Krishi Engine Ltd. (in liquidation). From perusal of these two decisions, we find that the first related to debarment of a Company from supply of commodities to Railways on the ground that another Company, which had already been debarred, had certain Directors, common between the two Companies. The second matter related to corporate personality of a Company under liquidation and its impact on the holding Company vis-à-vis a question of payment of workmen dues. The facts of both these cases being very different to that of the matter before us, we do not think that any reliance can be placed upon either. We are therefore, of the view that the argument that the liability to provide the country club was of SEMPL and that Farm No. A-1 belonged to DETP, which were two companies, distinct from the OP/API, will be of no help to justify the decision not to provide the country club.
24. Further, it is contended by learned counsel of the OP that there was no completed contract for provision of the country club. Nor was there a commitment to provide it in the sale deeds signed with the individual vendors. These arguments pale into insignificance when seen with—
a. The manner in which the country club was projected as a special feature of the Pushpanjali Farms Project.
b. Clear admission in para 2 of the written response of the OP that it had made a commitment to provide it. The para reads, “It is pertinent to mention that in the allotment letter, the country club was agreed to be provided by Star Estate Management Pvt. Ltd.(hereinafter referred to as SEMPL) on the terms and conditions, service charges/rules to be decided by SEMPL and the opposite Party had no role to play in that.”
c. Even in the allotment letters issued to individual buyers of these farms, a categorical commitment has been made in the following terms:-
“A country Club with a Swimming Pool, Tennis and Badminton Courts, Sauna/Steam Bath and other recreational facilities and amenities has been agreed to be provided by SEMPL on the terms conditions, service charges/rules to be decided by SEMPL.”
25. In the written arguments, it is contended by OP/API that as per clause 13 of the allotment letters, the allottees were required to sign a separate agreement with SEMPL with regard to the country club and other maintenance and common services in the area of Pushpanjali Farms. This is manifestly a wrong claim. The letter of allotment does bind the buyer to pay the SEMPL maintenance and service charges. But, it does not require him to sign any agreement in so far as the development of country club is concerned. On the contrary, as already noted, the allotment letter itself carries a re-endorsement of the commitment to provide the country club with specified facilities.
26. From the stand taken by the OP/API in the written response and the arguments of Shri R.S.Suri, we find a conscious attempt to mix the issue of country club with that of the obligation of farms owners to pay for the maintenance of common services. Shri R.S. Suri has argued that with the enlargement of farm size from one and half acres to two and half acres, the number of farms was reduced, which led to poor response from the farm owners in payment of maintenance and service charges. This in turn had adverse effect on the activities of the SEMPL. He has sought to explain this as the reason for dropping of the country club. This argument is apparently the product of a fallacious logic that the two are related issues. In our view, they are, and must therefore, remain two distinct issues viz. the promised infrastructure vis-à-vis maintenance responsibilities.
27. The details examined above, clearly establish that the country club was projected as a ‘special feature’ at the stage of marketing of the project. It continued to be a commitment given to the buyer, at the stage of the allotment of farms. Having projected it as such, it was imperative for the OP to provide it as part of the project infrastructures, which a farm purchaser is entitled to. This is clearly borne out from the allotment letters to the purchasers, which clearly stated that:-
“For the purpose of entire development of the land you have agreed that the possession of the land to be transferred in your name shall remain with us (Developers) even after the registration of the Sale Deed of the land.” This is preceded by two paragraphs dedicated to the provision of developmental works like road, drainage, water supply etc. as well as the country club with swimming pool, tennis and badminton courts and other recreational facilities. The argument of economic un-viability, advanced by the OP, long after making the commitment, for non-provision of the country club does not merit any consideration and is rejected.
28. As discussed earlier in this order, the Pushpanjali Farms Project comprised lands, which were directly sold to and registered in favour of farm purchasers. Documentary evidence on record shows that even after registration of sale, possession of the land was continued with the OP/API for the purposes of development of common services and facilities, including the country club. The role of the OP therefore, is clearly that of a service provider within the meaning of Section 2(1) (o) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. It is our considered opinion that the conduct of the OP/API in first projecting the country club as the special feature of the project and then unilaterally deciding to drop it from the project, amounts to a deficiency in service within the meaning of Section 2(1) (g) of the Consumer Protection Act. It would also amount to an unfair trade practice within the meaning of Section 2(1) (r), which inter alia includes adoption of any unfair method or unfair dispective practice including false representation that the services are of a particular standard, quality or grade.
The following conclusions flow from the examination above—
a. The Pushpanjali Farm Owners & Residents Welfare Assn(FORWA) is legally entitled to prosecute this complaint on behalf of the farm owners.
b. The unilateral decision not to provide the country club was communicated to the farm purchasers for the first time on 19.3.1995. Therefore, the cause of action arose on that date. Accordingly, the question of limitation does not arise, in so far as the issue of the country club is concerned.
c. There was sufficient cause/justification for delay in execution of development works. Hence, no cause of action would arise in the hands of the farm owners on this issue.
d. The country club was projected and committed as a special feature of the Pushpanjali Farms, marketed by the OP. The commitment to provide it has been admitted by the OP. Therefore, failure to provide it for nearly 15 years and the subsequent unilateral decision to withdraw this commitment, are both highly unjustifiable. This conduct of the OP amounts to deficiency of service as well as an unfair trade practice.
30. We finally come to the question whether the complainant is entitled to the relief as prayed or any other relief would be appropriate in the facts and circumstance of this case. Even in the case of a statutory authority compensation has been held to be payable for unreasonable delays in accomplishment of the announced scheme or for failure to perform the promise held out to the claimants. Thus, in Ghaziabad Development Authority vs. Union of India & Anr. , (2000) 6 SCC 113, it was held that in a case where the Court or the Consumer Commission has found the authority guilty of having unreasonably delayed the accomplishment of the announced scheme or guilty of failure to perform the promise held out to the claimants, relief can be granted. In Om Prakash Vs. Assistant Engineer, Haryana Agro., (1994)(3) SCC 504, the Apex Court has observed that:-
“6. The laws intended to protect consumers, as opposed to traders, are comparatively of recent development. Because of general lack of information on the part of consumers, many trade practices may result in causing loss or damage to the consumers. It is well known that many of the traders having advance information, or on speculation regarding the rise in the price of different articles, in order to avail the increase in the price, withhold the supply of different goods or articles to the consumers. In this process they cause loss or damage to consumers by making them to pay the excess price which they would not have been compelled to pay, if the goods or articles had been supplied in time. The object and purpose of the Consumer Protection Act is to save the consumer from such unfair conduct and practice of the traders also. On the materials produced, the District Forum, the State Commission and the National Commission have to examine the grievance of a consumer that by adopting an unfair conduct or practice, a trader has wronged him and has compelled him to pay an excess amount. But, at the same time, it need not be impressed that any intervention, by such Consumer Forums, should be only when they are satisfied that the loss or damage has been caused to the consumer by the unfair conduct or practice, adopted by the trader.”
31. Under Section 14 of the Consumer Protection Act, this Commission has the power to grant one or more of the following reliefs, in the facts and circumstances of this case:-
“i) order payment of compensation to the consumer for any loss or injury suffered due to the opposite party.
ii) grant appropriate punitive damages.
iii) order removal of the deficiency in service.
iv) order to provide adequate costs to the affected parties.”
32. This is a case where we need to consider the impact of the conduct of OP on the buyers of Pushpanjali Farms. No special expertise is required to appreciate that the OP would have realized significantly lower price from these farms, had the project been marketed without the country club. Therefore, the element of loss suffered by individual farm purchasers cannot be ignored. Simultaneously, we also need to consider the future impact on consumers at large. If the consumer fora were to allow the service providers to benefit from such conduct, the latter will be encouraged to renege on their commitments, without any fear of the law. As already observed, in this case, failure of the OP to provide the country club tantamounts to a deficiency of service as well as an unfair trade practice. In this backdrop and considering the time that has elapsed since the commitment was unequivocally made and unilaterally withdrawn, we direct the OP/API to—
i.) pay compensation of Rs.25,000 to every purchaser of a farm in this project, whose sale deed was registered on or before the date of complaint to this Commission;
ii.) pay a sum of Rs.100 lacs as punitive damages. This shall be paid into the Consumer Welfare Fund of the Central government, in terms of the provision in Rule 10 A of the Consumer Protection Rules 1987; and
iii.) pay a sum of Rs.5 lacs to the complainant FORWA towards costs.
The above amounts shall be paid within a period of three months from this order. Delay, if any, shall carry interest at 10% per annum. The complaint is allowed on the aforesaid terms.