SC grants Unitech time till 12 Aug to compensate home buyers

The Supreme Court on Friday granted realty major Unitech Hitech Developers time till 12 August to deposit Rs5 crore in the court's registry for failing to hand over apartments in Noida to the buyers.

The apex court, however, rapped the realty major for delay in compensating buyers who did not get possession of their flats in Burgundy residential housing project at Sector 96, Noida.

A bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra while granting extension of time till 12 August for depositing the required amount, asked the three buyers to move a contempt plea against the firm's directors in case of failure to make the payment.
 
''If they don't pay, move an application for contempt and then directors will be sent to custody,'' Justice Misra said.

The court was hearing a plea by Unitech seeking extension of time to pay.

Challenging the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission's (NCDRC) October last year's order, Unitech said that the commission by invoking a so-called ''unfair trade practice'' changed the terms of the contract to its prejudice by directing payment of simple interest at 12 per cent per annum on the amount paid by the home buyers as compensation for delay in offering of possession. The company has also been asked to give possession of flats by March 2017.

Despite there being specific terms of the agreement that Rs10 per sq ft per month will be paid by the firm for any delay beyond a period of 30 months, the apex consumer court has rewritten the contract and granted punitive damages over and above what is stipulated in the contract in lieu of compensation when there are clear judgments stating to the contrary, Unitech stated.

Advocate Ashwarya Sinha, appearing for the buyers, said the builder had failed to hand over the possession of the apartment which was due on 16 April 2013. ''About R3.8 crore per flat was given to Unitech Ltd,'' he added.

The developer told the court that mere delay in delivery of a constructed apartment does not and cannot lead to an automatic claim for damages. ''If there is no appreciation in the value of the apartment, the person booking the apartment may make a claim for loss caused due to delay which he is required to prove by leading evidence,'' it added.

The company attributed the delay in the construction of the project to massive agitations and strikes by farmers. ''Further various restraint orders were passed by NGT regarding ground water extraction for construction purposes and also against construction in and around 10 km of the Okhla Bird Sanctuary. Since the present project falls within 10 km vicinity of the sanctuary, work was stopped by enforcement agency for some time,'' Unitech stated.

Unitech had launched residential housing project 'Burgundy' in its 'Unitech Golf and Country Club township in 2010.

The apex court had in May ordered the developer to deposit Rs5 crore with its registry by 10 June.