The apex consumer commission has cautioned a district forum to appreciate correct law and facts of a case and said a person booking a flat in an upcoming property comes under the category of 'consumer'. The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) made the observation while pulling up the district forum over its order rejecting the complaint of a home-buyer who had sought a refund of Rs 3.5 lakh from the builder. The NCDRC's order came on a revision petition filed by the builder, a Kolkata-based real estate firm, against the state commission's decision in favour of complainant Monoj Chowdhury. The district forum had dismissed the complaint, after noting that Chowdhury, a Kolkata resident, got a refund of Rs 1.5 lakh from the builder, and "he ceased to be a consumer". The NCDRC rejected this finding and observed, "The complainant (Chowdhary) having booked a property in the building to be constructed by the petitioner (builder) does come within the category of 'consumer'." "It is not understood as to how district forum observed that after accepting the refund of Rs 1.5 lakh the complainant ceases to be a consumer.
The forum was expected to show correct appreciation of law and facts while dealing with the case," a bench headed by presiding member B C Gupta said. According to the complaint, Chowdhary had booked a property for Rs 11 lakh and paid Rs five lakh as advance to the builder. The rest of the amount had to be paid before handing over the possession. The complaint alleged that the firm was not able to construct the building and refunded Rs 1.5 lakh to Chowdhary. The builder contended that the sanctioned plan could not be obtained from the Municipal Corporation for construction of the building and they had been making payment to the complainants, but due to lack of funds, he could not refund the entire money. "The petitioner (builder) has admitted in his written reply before the district forum that he refunded a part amount of Rs 1.5 lakh to the complainant, but was unable to refund the rest of the amount due to lack of funds," the NCDRC said. "The petitioner is duty bound to return the balance money deposited by the complainant forthwith, alongwith interest at the rate allowed by the State Commission," it said.