-Report by Kontheti Subrahmanya Sai Lakshmi Anuhya
In the recent judgment of K. L. SUNEJA & ANR. Vs. DR. (MRS.) MANJEET KAUR MONGA (D) THROUGH HER LR & ANR., issued by a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court, an order was passed directing all courts and judicial bodies to establish rules to guarantee that sums paid to the office or registry of the courts or tribunals be invariably deposited in a bank or other financial institution. The directive was given to ensure that litigants would never lose interest in money deposited with courts or tribunals in the future.
- In the current case, Smt. Gursharan Kaur (Complainant) was pursuing a case against a Developer for delaying the allotment of a property to the Complainant. After paying up to six instalments, the Complainant declined to pay additional instalments, citing a delay in completion progress. The Developer revoked the allotment on April 30, 2005. Along with the Cancellation Letter, the Developer encloses a Pay Order dated 30-04-2005 for Rs. 4,53,750/- issued by Citibank in the full repayment of the Complainant’s payments.
- Dissatisfied with the withdrawal of the allocation, the Complainant filed a Complaint under Section 36 of the then Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1969 (MRTP Act) before the previous Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices (MRTP) Commission insinuating unfair trade practices by the Developer and seeking custody of the flat. The Complainant declined the reimbursement and did not cash the Pay Order. The Pay Order was also included in the Petition lodged with MRTP.
- However, while the case was pending, the Competition Act 2002 went into effect on September 1, 2009, thus repealing the MRTP Act. As a result, the MRTP Commission’s cases were transferred to the previous Competition Appellate Tribunal (COMPAT).
- It was argued that NCLAT erred in failing to recognize that as the complainant’s legal team did not receive the reimbursement of the amount of 4,53,750/- from the developer until 7th May 2016, the interest on the said principal amount should have operated from 4th October 1993 until the date of implementation of the amount, which was 7th May 2016.
- It was asserted that after the Tribunal determined that the developer was at fault. a decision upheld by this court, which held that the complainant was obligated to compensation in the form of compound interest.
- It was argued that the developer’s claim that the money had been taken from its account and that it was unaware of the initial Pay Order filing could not be accepted. Furthermore, learned counsel stated that the developer took full advantage of the complainant’s deposits and, after cancelling the sale, quickly assigned the property to another customer for a significantly greater sum of 21 lakhs.
- The developer argued, both in answer to the complainant’s appeal and in its own appeal, that no blame could be assigned to it and that it could not be held liable once the complainant got the Pay Order dated 30th April 2005. Senior attorney for the developer argued that the inquiry was strictly limited to whether any obligation arose owing to any fault or shortcoming on its part after April 2005, given that the Pay Order was not encased by the complaint. In this regard, it was asserted that Citibank had unequivocally stated that the money was withdrawn from the developer’s account after the Pay Order was placed.
- It was contended that the Pay Order was in the MRTP Commission’s file and so authorized its recertification. In these instances, the developer addressed the Commission, leading in the instrument’s verification and eventual giving over to the complainant.
- Legal representatives for the developer claimed that once the money in dispute was settled through the bank (i.e., through an instrument payment, such as a Pay Order, the responsibility would stop. The developer’s counsel relied on the rulings in Hindustan Paper Corporation Ltd vs. Ananta Bhattacharjee.
Accordingly, the Apex Court said that the Complainant should have taken either of the following actions given the observations mentioned above:
She may have asked to deposit the Pay Order earnings in an account handled by the MRTP Commission Registrar. She may have asked for a “without prejudice” order, allowing her to cash the money and preventing the denial of her claim.
She might have also sought appropriate directions that the Developer keep the sum, who could then be instructed to pay the principal plus such interest as the MRTP Commission or the Tribunal judged reasonable and in the interests of justice. As none of these options was chosen, and because the money in question was unquestionably deducted from the Developer’s Current Account, the Apex Court ruled that the Developer cannot be held accountable for paying interest on the Pay Order amount of Rs. 4,53,750/- beyond 30-04-2005. As a result, the Developer’s Appeal was granted, while the Complainant’s Appeal was denied.
All these data made it abundantly evident that the developer was not at fault; in fact, the complaint confirmed receiving the Pay Order that the developer had returned in a letter dated September 26, 2005. The complaint’s database and the evidence presented with it include no mention of or reference to the original Pay Order, according to learned counsel who cited the pleadings before the MRTP Commission.
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