NATIONAL CONSUMER DISPUTES REDRESSAL COMMISSION
REVISION PETITION NO. 529 OF 2006
(Against the order dated 12.01.2006 in Appeal No. 399/04 of the
Chhattisgarh State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Raipur)
Nagar Palika Nigam, Bhilai
Formerly Special Area Development Authority
Tehsil & District Durg (C.G.) … Petitioner/Opp. Party
Rajesh Kumar Shukla
S/o Late Shri vishwanath Shukla
R/o Qr. No. 5-A, “H” Pocket
Maroda Sector, Bhilai Nagar
Tehsil & District Durg (C.G.) … Respondent/Complainant
HON'BLE MR. JUSTICE ASHOK BHAN, PRESIDENT
HON'BLE MR. S.K. NAIK, MEMBER
For Petitioner : Mr. Mohd. Anis Ur Rehman, Advocate
For Respondent : Mr. Rajesh Kumar Shukla, Respondent-
Complainant in person
Pronounced on 13th May, 2010
Per S.K. Naik, Member
This revision petition has been filed by the Commissioner, Nagar Palika Nigam, Bhilai (formerly known as Special Area Development Authority, Bhilai), who was the sole opposite party before the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Durg (District Forum for short), against the order 12th of January, 2006 passed by the Chhattisgarh State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Raipur (State Commission for short). Vide the impugned order the State Commission, while disposing of the appeal of the petitioner/opposite party/Nigam, modified the order of the District Forum directing the petitioner to pay to the respondent/complainant Rs.1,75,000/- being the market value of the plot in question and also imposed a cost of Rs.5000/- on them. Rest of the directions of the District Forum were maintained.
Briefly stated, the facts of the case are that the respondent/complainant, who was an employee of the Bhilai Steel Plant (BSP for short), had applied for a plot under housing scheme floated by BSP costing at Rs.3320/- during 1976 and also deposited 10% of the value i.e. Rs.332/-. The respondent-complainant alleges that no allotment, however, was made to him and before he could pay the remaining amount of Rs.3000/-, BSP transferred the scheme under an agreement to Special Area Development Authority (SADA), the present petitioner, now Nagar Palika Nigam. As per terms of the said agreement, petitioner/opposite party/Nigam was to allot the plots to the employees of BSP who had applied and deposited the premium amount under the scheme. Thereafter, the petitioner/opposite party/Nigam started allotting plots to the eligible employees of Bhilai Steel Plant but did not allot any plot to the respondent-complainant, resulting in some communications/ complaints to Bhilai Steel Plant as well as the petitioner/opposite party/Nigam by the respondent-complainant. Since plots were being allotted to similarly placed applicants the respondent/complainant in the year 1986 sent a letter along with cheque amounting to Rs.3000/- to the petitioner/opposite party for allotment of a plot but the said cheque was returned by them stating that there was no plot available at that time. On 30th September, 1986 the petitioner/opposite party/Nigam issued an advertisement in the newspaper stating that any person who has not been able to get the plot can get the same by a further deposit of Rs.500/- along with an affidavit and accordingly the respondent-complainant deposited the amount of Rs.500/- with the petitioner/opposite party/Nigam on 1st of October, 1986, but even thereafter he was not allotted a plot. Subsequently, on 13th of November, 1990, the respondent-complainant again supplied some information sought by the petitioner/opposite party/Nigam. On 17th of March, 1995 again the respondent-complainant reiterated his prayer for allotment of plot and sent a draft of remaining amount of Rs.2500/- to the petitioner/opposite party/Nigam but could not succeed in his attempt.
In this background, on 26th of August, 1998 the respondent filed a complaint before the District Forum, praying for allotment of the plot at the original pre-determined price after adjusting the amounts already paid; direction to the petitioner/opposite party/Nigam to pay the differential construction cost of the plot between the original price and the present market value and to pay the differential rate of interest on House Building Advance between the earlier 4% interest and present 9-11%; direction to the petitioner/opposite party/Nigam to recoup the house rent allowance @ Rs.430/- per month and to pay a compensation of Rs.50,000/- for unnecessarily harassing him for such a long period with cost.
The District Forum vide its order dated 2nd of September, 1998 dismissed the complaint holding that the dispute involved complex issues of fact and law, requiring an elaborate enquiry, which could not be decided in summary jurisdiction.
This order of the District Forum was challenged by the respondent-complainant before the M.P. State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, who vide its order dated 17th of April, 2001 remanded the matter to the District Forum for being decided afresh.
On remand, the District Forum after hearing the learned counsel for the parties and on appreciation of the evidence adduced before it, vide its order dated 5th of August, 2004 allowed the complaint and directed the petitioner/opposite party/Nigam to allot plot admeasuring 30x50 sq. ft. to the respondent-complainant within two months from the date of the order and give physical possession of the plot and in case the same is not possible, then pay the current market value of the plot to the respondent-complainant. That apart, the District Forum also directed the petitioner/opposite party/Nigam to pay 12% interest on the amount deposited by the respondent-complainant, besides a cost of Rs.3000/-.
Feeling aggrieved against the order of District Forum, the petitioner-opposite party/Nigam filed an appeal before the State Commission, who vide the order impugned modified the order of District Forum and directed them in the manner stated above.
Yet dissatisfied with the order of the State Commission, the opposite party/Nigam has filed this revision.
We have heard the learned counsel for the petitioner/opposite party/Nigam as well as respondent-complainant, who has appeared in person before us. We have also perused the orders of the District Forum and the State Commission and the available records of the case.
Learned counsel for the petitioner-opposite party/Nigam has assailed the order of the State Commission mainly on two counts. His first limb of argument is that both the fora below have erred in entertaining the complaint of the respondent/complainant, which was hopelessly barred by limitation. According to him, no allotment of any specific plot had ever been made in favour of the respondent/complainant. The sum of Rs.3000/- which was remitted by the respondent/complainant vide his cheque dated 10th of March, 1986 was returned by the petitioner/opposite party/Nigam as far back as on 31st of March, 1986, clearly stating therein that no plot was available in the Shastri Nagar Residential Scheme. The cause of action, therefore, arose in the year 1986 whereas the complaint has been filed on 26th of August, 1998. The subsequent correspondence between the parties would not ipso facto extend the period of limitation, he contends. The respondent/complainant, however, persisted in asking for a plot at the old price, to which the petitioner/opposite party/Nigam replied vide its letter dated 2nd of January, 1992 stating therein that it was not possible to allot a plot at Priyadarshani Parisar at the old price fixed for Shastri Nagar Residential Scheme and was stated therein that if he was very keen, he should submit his written consent to purchase the plot at Priyadarshani Paraisar at the current price, to which there was no response from the respondent/complainant. If this reference is taken to be the date from which the cause of action arose, even then the complaint was barred by limitation.
On the second limb of argument, the learned counsel for the petitioner/opposite party/Nigam has contended that the State Commission has exceeded its jurisdiction by awarding compensation of Rs.1,75,000/- on the basis of the prevailing market price of the plot at the time of its order. Since the respondent-complainant himself had been insisting that he will not pay the present market price, in which a plot could be offered to him, he contends that at the most interest could have been awarded on the deposited amount and the basis of the current market price was an illegal order which cannot be maintained in the eye of law.
Respondent-complainant who has appeared in person has contended that all through these years he has been relentlessly fighting for the allotment of a plot and he was willing to pay the cost, which is evident from the fact that he had remitted the cheques twice. He also submits that his contention that similarly placed persons have been allotted plots whereas he has been deprived of such an opportunity was ignored by both the fora below. He, therefore, submits that the petitioner-Nigam be directed to allot a plot to him at old rate.
On the plea of the learned counsel for the petitioner/Nigam that the complaint was barred by limitation, we are of the view that the said contention has to be rejected for the simple reason that the petitioner/Nigam while refunding the cheque for Rs.3000/- stating therein that no plot was available had failed to refund the initial 10% deposit of the value of the plot i.e. Rs.332/- so as to put an end to the dispute. By retaining this amount of Rs.332/- and also another sum of Rs.500/-, which was deposited by the respondent-complainant in response to a newspaper advertisement, the hope of the respondent-complainant was kept alive. This would constitute a continuous cause of action and, therefore, the objection with regard to complaint being barred by limitation has to be overruled.
Insofar as the award of compensation on the basis of market value of the plot is concerned, we do find merit in this argument. A consumer forum in arriving at the assessment of compensation has to first assess the gravity of deficiency and thereafter calculate the loss/mental harassment that a complainant may have undergone as a direct consequence of the said deficiency but the same cannot be weighed in terms of current/market price of the plot. In the case in hand, even though the respondent-complainant has alleged that similarly placed persons were allotted plots, we do not find the same being established from the record. A list, which has been produced by the respondent-complainant, even at this stage before us, states only details with regard to the deposits made by various other applicants and the bank draft number and date. From a perusal of the list, it cannot be said that persons who had applied along with him and similarly placed have been allotted plots. It is an admitted fact that the respondent-complainant had not been allotted any plot as no letter of allotment was ever issued. Thus, the very limited deficiency on the part of the petitioner/Nigam was non-refund of the deposit of Rs.332/- and perhaps another Rs.500/- which he deposited much later. For this deficiency the compensation arrived at on the basis of market rate of the plot applied for was totally erroneous and while we set aside the order of the fora below feel that the ends of justice would be met if the petitioner/Nigam is directed to pay a lump sum compensation of Rs.25,000/- including the cost of litigation. We order accordingly and the revision petition is disposed of with the direction to the petitioner-Nigam to pay this amount of Rs.25,000/- to the respondent-complainant within a period of two months, failing which it will attract interest @ 7% per annum till its payment.
(ASHOK BHAN, J.)