Home Consumer protection turned consumer fortification

“Customers are the most important visitor on our premises, they are not dependent on us, and we are dependent on them. They are not an interruption in our work. They are the purpose of it. They are not outsiders in our business. They are part of it; we are not doing them a favour by serving them. They are doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so.”

- Mahatma Gandhi

The golden words reiterated by the father of our nation bears within itself the very purpose of a law that was incorporated primarily for the welfare of consumers. The concept of consumer protection is not something that has originated like just another fluctuating trend but in fact traces its origin from the existence of human civilization. With gradual passage of time, the concept has recurrently been in conflict and is not being given the justice and righteousness it requires. It has been very evident in recent times that the interests and rights of a consumer continue to clash with various business policies and parallel functioning of the same. Whereas on one hand, customers should be the integral focus of a business, on the other hand they have acquired status of merely being a source of their commerce. Tilting direction for this article, light is being shed upon the new development of liaison between the Buyers and Builders in real estate sector.

Even though the real estate sector is one of the globally renowned sectors and comprises within itself almost every arena pertaining to housing, retail, commercial, etc. with tremendous growth but it also brings along with it shortcomings that have become more like an unfruitful and mislaying affair for buyers. The extent of fraudulent activities in housing sector in today’s date needs no specific mention and is always in fame for all the bad reasons. The buyers who invest their hard earned money in this particular sector are time and again found to be seeking redressal under the umbrella of Consumer Protection Act, 1986 justifying the same to be ‘deficiency’ defined under section 2(1)(g) of the Act and demanding appropriate ‘services’ duly produced in section 2(1)(o) of the same Act. The buyers in these cases are rightfully ‘consumers’ as per section 2(1)(d) and their status has been backed by judicial precedents delivered by the Apex Court. Until the year 2019, there was hardly any mention of the nature of practices that are taken recourse to by fraudulent builders after which the protectors of law took cognizance of changing scenario and pl aced their strong foot forward in securing the same.

Having interpreted the evolution of ways through which a guiltless buyer claims his right over the property, the relevant legislations and counter claims emanating from buyers at fault, the Judiciary finally touched the issues that deserved attention and subsequent relief since a very long period. The year 2019 witnessed various bulwark judgments like Pioneer Urban Land and Infrastructure Ltd. & Anr v. Govindan Raghavan on 2nd April 2019; Pioneer Urban Land and Infrastructure Ltd. & Anr. v. Union of India & Ors. On 9th August 2019 wherein not just the standing of a consumer was augmented but a sword was handed to them in order to counteract anything that hinders their right which has lawfully been enshrined in the Constitution of India as well. The approach taken by the supreme justice governing body in India was carried forward by National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission in judgments such as Surinder Kumar Sarna v. Parsvnath Developers Ltd. On 11th April 2019 and Shalabh Nigam v. Orris Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. on 6th May 2019.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India relied upon the following observation in aforementioned judgment which has been drawn from a judicial precedent; “Our judges are bound by their oath to ‘uphold the Constitution and the laws’. The Constitution was enacted to secure to all the citizens of this country social and economic justice. Article 14 of the Constitution guarantees to all persons equality before the law and equal protection of the laws. This principle is that the courts will not enforce and will, when called upon to do so, strike down an unfair and unreasonable contract, or an unfair and unreasonable clause in a contract, entered into between parties who are not equal in bargaining power.”

Securing the economic justice as provided under the Constitution of India, the Apex Court as well as the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has declared alluring advertisements to entrap common people an unfair trade practice given in section 2(1)(r) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. The Supreme Court further went on to reiterate that the Builder-Buyer Agreements entered into between the parties which is used as a defense mechanism by builders is merely a document made for harassing the unaware and innocent buyers. Builders insert one sided clauses in such agreements thereby keeping an arbitrary control and supremacy for self but the same becomes an exploitation clause for the buyers. To quote other categories that bear the status of ‘unfair trade practices’ are false representation or offer of bargain prices, non-compliance of prescribed standard, hoarding etc. Non delivery of possession pertaining to a purchased immovable property whose value rests primarily on the time passing by has been clearly reiterated to be ‘Gross Deficiency in services’ and liability from the same cannot be evaded by simply hiding under force majeure circumstances or arbitrarily drafted agreements. A buyer cannot be forced to wait indefinitely after due remittance of his money just because the builder is unable to deliver him the promised possession. Furthermore, the focal strength of wrong doers i.e. the Builders in these cases has always been delivering the possession after a legal battle of numerous years which has also been showed the actual place it should rightfully hold as per the law. Since investment in an immovable property is not merely a possession but a valuable asset for the purchaser who also expects to enjoy the future benefits the same will bring along, the aforementioned judicial precedents evidently state that a consumer in aforesaid scenarios deserve more than just compensation along with an interest which does justice to his investment.

The most substantial of all the observations has been the one where COPRA is stated not just an additional remedy but the ultimate protector whose patronage can be availed along with the realms of other legislations. The subject Act here has in past been just a way to seek compensation from monopolistic traders and builders however considering the fact that a buyer is coerced to knock doors of redressal machineries when the wrong doer enjoys the monetary comfort for other business prospects, it was more than just necessary to render a strict interpretation.

Summarizing, the position of consumer post independence has witnessed unforeseeable change and more over the dimensions of law relating to consumer protection has also transformed. Now, the focal point of relevance is being set upon buyers with the status of ‘consumer’ as they are and have been exploited since time immemorial. The above corroborated issue demanded justice since long and has finally taken the first step in bringing buyers and sellers at par. However, despite aiming at fortification of consumer than merely protection, the hidden loss of consumer remains unnoticed. The first and foremost intent behind procuring an immovable property is to convert the same into a valuable possession and security for coming generations which seems to be lost in entire hustle of litigation. As much as law tries to secure protection for the aggrieved, it should also prove to be a paragon who puts the wrong to rest and deliver the long demanded justice in its true essence.


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