Pay interest to flat buyers or face attachment of property: SC tells Unitech

The Supreme Court on Monday asked real estate major Unitech to deposit interest on the money paid by flat buyers at its project at Gurgaon by 8 May, warning it that failure to deposit the interest may invite attachment proceedings.

The apex court bench comprising Justice Dipak Misra and Justice AM Khanwilkar refused to extend time for depositing the money and listed the case for hearing on 8 May.

"Let these matters be listed for May 8 by which time amount as directed on earlier occasions shall be deposited failing which this court may think of attaching the property of the appellant company," the bench said

Investors in Unitech's Vistas project in Sector 70, Gurgaon had moved the Supreme Court after the company failed failed to deliver the flats by 2012, as promised.

The SC, by its 20 February order had directed Unitech to pay interest at the rate of 14 per cent to 39 flat buyers at its Vistas project, but the flat buyers later chose to withdraw from the project and sought both payment of their principal amount and interest thereon.

These flat buyers, who had paid a total of Rs16.55 crore to the builder sought both the principal amount and the interest thereon after the builder did not handover the possession of the flats as promised by 2012.

"Let the money come", the bench said as counsel for the real estate major sought more time to deposit the interest amount as directed by the court by its 20 February order.

The interest was to be calculated from 1 January 2010, when the payment was made till Unitech deposited the principal amount with the top court registry. The court had said that 90 per cent of the interest amount that would be deposited with its registry would be disbursed to the 39 buyers who have opted out.
 
The court while directing the builder to deposit the interest has kept open the question of rate of interest and compensation to be paid.

''The company hasn't deposited the interest amount of about Rs15.5 crore till now,'' said advocate Pawanshree Agrawal, who represents the aggrieved buyers. ''It warned Unitech that it would attach the company's property in case it defaults on depositing the same.''

Unitech said it had sought clarifications about the interest amount due to buyers who had paid money after the stipulated date and the tax liability on the payments.

''Certain customers had paid certain amounts as late as 2014-15. The company had sought clarification from the hon'ble court as to whether amounts should be paid from respective dates of deposits or from 01.01.2010,'' Unitech said. ''There were some more clarifications sought by the company pertaining to tax deductible at source from the payments corresponding to the interest.''

The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission had imposed a 12 per cent penalty on Unitech in June 2015 for delaying the delivery of flats in the project. The builder moved the Supreme Court against the commission's order in August 2015. Launched in mid-2009, the Vistas project was to be delivered in December 2012.

The Supreme Court, in another case, directed Unitech chairman Ramesh Chandra, managing directors Ajay Chandra and Sanjay Chandra and all other directors of the company to be present on 5 May and asked the builder to submit its final proposal for the completion of its pending projects.