The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) has held that the jurisdiction of the consumer forum to entertain a complaint is not ousted on account of a civil suit having been instituted by the opposite party, even if the subject matter of the said suit is the same agreement which is the foundation of the consumer complaint.
The state commission had dismissed the complaint, seeking possession of the flats along with compensation. However, the commission, agreed with the contention of the builder that since they had already filed civil suits for cancellation of the agreements executed with the complainants and therefore, the consumer complaints on the basis of the said agreements were not maintainable.
The national commission, presided by Justice VK Jain, observed that the remedy available under the Consumer Protection Act is an additional remedy, which Parliament has made available to a consumer and even if two remedies, one before the civil court and the other before the consumer forum are available, it is for him to decide as to which remedy he wants to avail.
The commission also said the builder had entered into agreements with the complainants/appellants, agreeing to construct flats for them and give possession of the said flats and hence, a relationship of consumer and service provider came to be created between the parties as soon as the aforesaid transaction was entered into. “The relationship of consumer and service provider does not come to end on account of one of the parties cancelling the said agreement. If deficiency on the part of the respondents in rendering services to them is proved, the complainants/appellants would be entitled to appropriate relief in terms of the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act,” it said.
Setting aside the order of the state commission, the national commission observed that this is not even a case where a person having already approached a civil court, at a later date decided to approach a consumer forum.
“Here the remedy before the civil court was initiated by the respondents and not by the complainants/appellants. The jurisdiction of the consumer forum is not ousted on account of a civil suit having been instituted by the respondents, even if the subject matter of the said suits is the same agreement which is the foundation of the consumer complaint,” the commission observed.