The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission(NCDRC) has held that Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act 2016(RERA) does not bar filing of a complaint under the Consumer Protection Act 1986 against a builder/developer.
The bench headed by Justice R K Agrawal was dealing with a batch of complaints filed by homebuyers for compensation from Today Homes & Infrastructure Pvt Ltd for not delivering possession of flats within the stipulated time.
The builder/developer raised preliminary objections against the maintainability of complaints on two grounds :
Rejecting these objections, the Commission held that Consumer Protection Act was a special enactment, which provided a special remedy to an aggrieved consumer. The authorities under Consumer Protection Act cannot be regarded as "civil courts" and hence Section 79 of RERA did not apply.
It was held :
"Section 79 of RERA only prohibits the jurisdiction of Civil Court from entertaining any suit or proceeding in respect of any matter which can be decided by the Authorities constituted under the RERA. As the Consumer Fora are not Civil Courts, the provisions of Section 79 which bar the jurisdiction of Civil Courts, will not be attracted. So far as to grant injunction is concerned, only that power has been taken away by Section 79. But, it does not, in any manner, effect the jurisdiction of the Consumer Fora in deciding the Complaints.
Both, the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 and the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 are supplemental to each other and there is no provision in the Consumer Protection Act which is inconsistent with the provisions of RERA".
The summary of conclusions of the NCDRC are as follows :
Arbitration agreement does not bar consumer complaint.
Referring to the recent SC decision in Emaar MGF Land Ltd. vs. Aftab Singh, the Commission held that the fact that Arbitration can be proceeded under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1986 is not a ground to restrain the Consumer Fora from proceeding with the Complaints.