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Can We File Application in Consumer Forum & UP RERA Together?

In a significant judgment, the Supreme Court state that despite the enactment of a special 2016 law, Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, to deal with real estate firms, homebuyers can still approach the consumer forum for seeking remedies including refund & compensation from such companies for delay in handing over possession of their dream homes.

Even though homebuyers have a specific platform to file their complaints addressed after the arrival of the real estate law in 2016, they also have the option to approach the consumer protection forums if they want to, India’s top court said, in a benchmark ruling on November 2, 2020.

Passing its order on an appeal by a Delhi-based real estate developer against an order of the NCDRC (National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission), a bench of the Supreme Court also clarified that despite the judicial nature of the proceedings, consumer fora are not same as civil courts in India.

Delhi HC Verdict: Home Buyers Can Register Complaints in NCDRC As Well As RERA

Stuck with a delayed home project? Should you approach the RERA (Real Estate Regulatory Authority) or the NCDRC (National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission)?

According to the Delhi High Court (HC), anguished homebuyers can take defaulting developers to both, the RERA as well as the NCDRC. This comes as a huge win for those homebuyers who have been split between whether to take the NCDRC route or approach the state RERA. It was in February 2017 when the SC had set the record straight regarding homebuyers complaints by allowing individual buyers to approach the NCDRC collectively in case of a disagreement with a developer and if the price involved is more than INR 1 crore. Thus, in many cases, groups of buyers approached the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission. RERA on the other hand, allows individual homebuyers to escalate their grievances and of late has seen many favoring the state regulatory body. However, builders insisted that pending cases against them need to be withdrawn from NCDRC in case a buyer registered a complaint against him in RERA.

Is it legal to approach consumer forum after the arrival of the RERA?

Let us be clear about this. Homebuyers have every legal right to approach either the consumer forum or the RERA both at the same time to seek relief in case of an issue with a developer. As per the Delhi High Court (HC), both the bodies have concurrent jurisdiction.

While rejecting over 60 petitions filed by many developers in the NCR (national capital region) which argued that buyers cannot simultaneously sue them at both the platforms and that cases pending against them in the consumer forum be withdrawn since the same case is pursued by the NCDRC, the court said even the country’s top court was of the opinion that buyers could seek relief from both the platforms at the same time.

Previously, RERA chiefs of several states had also opined that homebuyers be barred from approaching the consumer forums. Buyers approaching consumer forums, they say, is acting as a major hitch in emphatic implementation of the real estate law.

Is the consumer forum still relevant for home buyers?

Make no mistake. The power of consumer forum might be limited, but, let us not lose sight of the fact that the NCDRC does not lose its relevance for homebuyers altogether after the arrival of the RERA.

For starters, the panel has a great track record as far as litigation success rate is concerned, an area where the RERA has yet to prove its credentials. Over the years, the consumer panel has modified laws to make them more consumer-friendly.

In recent, the NCDRC made changes in the Consumer Protection Act to provide huge relief to home buyers.  It ruled that home developers cannot force buyers to settle down their disputes via arbitration by restraining them from approaching consumer forums. State real estate authorities can follow this example to attain a huge success.