Consumer court awards 2-yr jail to builder for failure to comply with its orders

Nagpur: In a rare instance, the additional consumer forum has sentenced a builder/developer to two years of simple imprisonment and asked him to pay Rs20,000 to two homemakers in two different cases. He would undergo another two months behind bars in case of failure to submit the amount.
A bench comprising president Shekhar Muley and members Avinash Prabhune and Dipti Bobade found accused Malak Dharmendra Babulal Reddy of Saikrupa Associates and Developers at Teka Naka guilty of not complying with forum’s earlier orders passed over two and half years back on March 3, 2016. Quoting powers under Section 27 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, the judges announced a prison term to him.

Complainants — Usha and Rajeshabai Yadav, both residents of new Futala Lake on Amravati Road — had purchased plots from the builder on the outskirts of the city. While former had paid Rs1.56 lakh, the other gave Rs1.95 lakh, both in instalments.

When he failed to handover their possession, both moved consumer court in 2012. After four years in 2016, the court ruled in their favour by directing Reddy to either handover a plot to them as per their registered agreement or refund their amount with 12% interest from 2012. He was also told to pay Rs10,000 each to both complainants towards mental and physical harassment and cost of litigation.

The accused was duly served with the forum’s orders on April 11, 2016. Afterwards, both women went to the builder’s office and requested him to comply with the court’s orders and refund their hard earned money. When all their pleas fell on deaf years, both filed contempt case with the consumer court against him.

After receiving summons, Reddy appeared before the forum and declined all allegations. Instead, he offered to provide them plots in his other layouts. Not satisfied with his reply, the judges recorded his statement under Section 313 of IPC, where he admitted that he failed to comply with the orders, but clarified that he was facing financial problems.

The bench led by Muley came to conclusion that builder had a dispute with original landowner, due to which his first sale deed couldn’t get executed. They said, the builder was under compulsion of handing over the plots, as per registered agreement with the customers. Even plots in his other layouts, which he was offering in lieu of original ones, were not regularized till date and can’t be sold, they said.

The judges rejected his arguments of facing financial crunch stating that he could have easily refund the amount to the customers. He also failed to submit any concrete documents to support his claims.

“The builder tried to connive poor and illiterate citizens under pretext of providing them plots and by defrauding them. He deliberately didn‘t comply with forum’s orders and therefore, deserves no leniency. He would continue his misdeeds of defrauding such gullible citizens, if not meted out with stringent punishment,” the judges stated, while quoting National Consumer Forum’s guidelines.

(With inputs from Aishwarya Dakhore)

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