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Consumer panel orders Rs 33 crore refund, 12% interest to Mumbai flat buyers

mumbai: Holding the developers of the World One project in ‘Upper Worli’ (Lower Parel) liable for unfair trade practice in promoting a project without the requisite statutory approvals and of deficiency in service for a four-year delay in offering possession, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) has ordered a refund of around Rs 33 crore for three flat buyer with 12% interest, with Rs 13 crore being the maximum payout.

The project was promoted as “an iconic residential building comprising 117 floors and the tallest residential building in the world with several unique and premier features”. Construction was stalled around the 80th floor as the Airports Authority of India (AAI) did not give an NOC. In 2017, Premlata Garg (got Rs 13-cr payout), who had bought a three-bedroom flat measuring 2,044 sq ft in ‘The World Towers, Upper Worli’, approached the commission against Shreeniwas Cotton Mills Ltd (now merged and incorporated as Macrotech Developers Limited) and The Lodha Group. It was submitted that while the flat was bought in 2014, possession was to be received in 2015 and was delayed.

The commission also pronounced orders with respect to other flat purchasers in the same project. While Mukesh Kumar Gupta will receive a refund Rs 10.3 crore with 12% interest, Agwarwal is to be paid Rs 9.8 crore with a similar interest. In a common order, the commission quoted the developers as denying the claims of the flat purchasers and submitting that the complainant was not entitled for refund since as per clause of the ATS (agreement to sell), the flat purchasers were required to terminate the agreement within 90 days of the expiry of the grace period, failing which it was deemed that they had accepted the revised date of possession.

The commission, however, said, “Considering that the likelihood of legal offer of possession is remote in view of the absence of the requisite NOC for the proposed height of the building, seeking refund with compensation for delay is not unjustified”. It also said that as “allottees in a premier, iconic project the complainants cannot be compelled to accept possession and are entitled to seek refund of the money deposited”. The commission said that no document has been brought on record to explain why the construction of the building was stalled at the 80th floor or why the occupation certificate was available for up to 43 floors only. “In view of there not being any approval regarding the number of floors to be constructed because of the AAI’s NOC not being available and the offer of possession on the basis of a part occupation certificate which as per the ATS gives no legal right to the complainants, it cannot be disputed that the complainants were not within their rights to seek refund of their money with interest by way of compensation along with other reliefs,” the commission said.

The developers had submitted that the flat buyer had not indicated the clause in the agreement relating to “factors beyond control of the opposite party” which included “… any notice, order, rule, notification of the Government or any other public or competent authority or of the court”. They submitted that the non-receipt of the NOC from the civil aviation department for height clearance fell under this clause. However, the commission said that this was not a sudden or unforeseen event, but was in their knowledge since the inception of the project as the NOC was not available to execute a 117-storey building. “Unfair trade practice and deficiency in service are writ large on the opposite party,” the commission said.

10 Sep, 2023