The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) has upheld the plea of home buyers or complainants that even if the home buyer cannot directly file a consumer complaint before NCDRC for want of pecuniary jurisdiction, the same can be done in a “Joint Complaint” wherein multiple home buyers will file one Joint Complaint against the builder and their aggregate sale consideration will be considered for determining pecuniary jurisdiction.

The Bench comprising President R.K. Agrawal, Member S.M. Kantikar, and Member Binoy Kumar said, “As held by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in Brigade Enterprises. (supra) (in para 35, 36 & 37), that there is nothing in the Act, which prohibits the few Complainants from joining together and filing Joint Complaint. The word complaint includes plural i.e., complaints also. Thus, a Joint Complaint is maintainable and it will be treated as one-complaint. … Admittedly, in the present cases, the value of the consideration paid by all the persons who have joined as Complainants in the Joint Complaint exceeds ₹2 Crores, therefore, this Commission has pecuniary jurisdiction under Section 58(1)(a)(i) of the Act to entertain all the present Joint Complaints. Accordingly, it is held that all the present Joint Complaints are maintainable before this Commission.”

The Bench further said that the opposite parties should be prompt and alert.

Advocates Aditya Parolia and Nithin Chandran represented the complainants while Advocates Ritu Raj Srivastav and Seema Sundd represented the opposite parties.

In this case, consumer complaints were filed under Section- 58 read with Section 35(1)(c) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 by the complainants on their own behalf and that of other allottees of the apartments/units in the residential housing projects to be developed by the opposite parties/builders/developers, interalia, alleging deficiency in service and unfair trade practice on the part of the opposite parties.

The questions that arose before the NCDRC were:

1. Whether the permission to file a complaint under Section 35(1)(c) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 should be granted or not; if not, whether a Joint Complaint be permitted in terms of the order passed by the Supreme Court in the case of Brigade Enterprise Ltd. v. Anil Kumar Virmani & Ors. (Civil Appeal No.1777 of 2021)?

2. Whether each of the persons who have approached the Commission be treated by paying consideration of ₹2 crores or more?

The Commission while dealing with the above issues asserted, “As in all the aforementioned Consumer Complaints, there is no sameness of interest, relying upon the Principle laid down by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in Brigade Enterprises (supra), permission to file the Complaint in the representative capacity under section 35(1)(c) of the Act, cannot be granted. Therefore, the Applications seeking permission to file the Complaint in the representative capacity under section 35(1 )(c) of the Act, are rejected. However, all the original Complainants .in the respective Complaint Cases can be permitted to file the Joint Complaints.”

The Commission further ordered that the consumer complaint cases in this matter be treated as Joint Complaints filed only on behalf of the complainants who originally filed the respective complaints.

“Issue notice to the Opposite Parties in terms of Section 38 (2) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, directing them to file the Reply/ Written Version within a period of 30 days from the date of receipt of the notice in the Complaint, returnable on 10.07.2023”, it directed.

It also noted that the Consumer Forum, including the NCDRC, has no power to condone the delay beyond the period of 45 days in filing the written version, as provided under Section 13(1)(a) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

Accordingly, the NCDRC listed the matter on July 10, 2023.

Cause Title- Akshay Kumar & Ors. v. Adani Brahma Synergy Pvt. Ltd.

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