Fine of Rs 5 lakh imposed upon Jalandhar Improvement Trust for continuous filing of meritless appeals

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): NCDRC has imposed a fine of Rs five lakh upon Jalandhar Improvement Trust, for abusing the process of law and filing meritless appeals before various consumer foras in order to cover up its own fault and negligence. “No leniency should be shown to litigants who in order to cover up their own fault and negligence, goes on filing meritless complaints/ appeals in different foras. Equity demands that such unscrupulous litigants whose only aim and object is to deprive the other party of the fruits of the decree must be dealt with heavy hands,” NCDRC observed. Earlier, in the year 2011, Jalandhar Improvement Trust framed a ‘Development Scheme’ for allotment of residential plots in Surya Enclave Extension at Jalandhar and after taking substantial amount of money from the respondents, the appellants issued allotment letters to them, allotting specific plots. However, appellants failed to handover possession of the plots to the respondents for more than 3 years. The legal defence of Trust was that acquisition of land for the aforesaid scheme was challenged by various land owners by way of various writ petitions before the Punjab and Haryana High Court and there was a stay, hence, appellants were not in a position to handover the possession of the plots. When the respondents approached Punjab State Consumer Commission, it directed Jalandhar Improvement Trust to refund Rs.28,22,950/-along with interest at the rate of 9% per annum from the date of filing of the complaint till the date of payment and to pay Rs.2,00,000/- as compensation along with  Rs.5,000/- as litigation costs. After perusal of documents, NCDRC also observed that. “It was well within the knowledge of the Appellant-Trust, that there was an impediment in allotment of the plots in question. In spite thereof, Appellant-Trust had gone ahead and allotted plots in question to the respondents, which it could not have done so. In this manner, appellants have played fraud with the general public and thus collected huge amount of money.” While referring to various judgments of Supreme Court, NCDRC held strict stand towards frivolous and uncalled for litigations and noted that if any litigant approaches the court of equity with unclean hands, suppress the material facts, make false averments in the complaint/ appeal and tries to mislead and hoodwink the judicial Forums then his complaint/ appeal should be thrown away at the threshold. NCDRC also held that the said act of Jalandhar Improvement Trust is a “deceptive practice” which falls within the meaning of “unfair trade practice” as defined under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. “Such type of unscrupulous act on the part of builders should be dealt with a heavy hand, who after grabbing the money from the purchasers, enjoy and utilize their money but do not hand over the plot, on one pretext or the other,” Commission added. NCDRC further directed the appellants to pay a sum of Rs 2.5 lakh out of Rs 5 lakh to the respondents and deposit the rest Rs 2.5 lakh in the Commission’s Consumer Legal Aid account. Jalandhar Improvement Trust v. Munish Dev Sharma,  2015 SCC OnLine NCDRC 919decided on 01.07.2015

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