By Fiona Mehta
As a condition of hearing its appeal, the Bombay high court upheld an order of the RERA (Real Estate Regulation and Development Act) appellate tribunal (MAHAREAT) directing a builder to deposit 100% of the interest due to buyers for delays in handing over flats at a project called Wintergreen in Borivali in May 2022.
However, the HC, accepts an undertaking by the builder, CCI Projects Pvt Ltd, and gave it 5 months to deposit over Rs 19 crore before the Tribunal, of which Rs 5.5 crore is to be paid in 4 weeks.
The developer said it will deposit Rs 33 lakh, or 30% of the Rs 1.1 crore ‘penalty’ due to flat buyers, in 4 weeks. It will also provide more than Rs 10 lakh to expenses as directed. In their May 6 judgement, Justices Revati Mohite Dere and Madhav Jamdar stated that failure to fulfil deadlines will result in the rejection of any pending appeal before the panel.
CCI Projects’ counsels had challenged the tribunal’s orders under the RERA Act requiring it to deposit a 100 percent deposit “without recording any reasons.” According to the counsels, Section 43 (5) of the RERA Act provides the tribunal power to request a deposit of at least 30% of the amount, and “the appellate tribunal has directed deposit of considerably lesser amount in numerous other situations.”
The HC also heard from Central government’s counsel and the apartment buyers’ attorney where they pointed out that the Act only requires a minimum 30% deposit of the imposed ‘penalty,’ not any additional amounts. She stated that a pre-deposit of the total sum is mandatory before an appeal is considered.
The project is finished, according to the builder’s counsel, and the flats have been handed over to the buyers. According to him, the MahaRERA order is merely for compensation for delays, and hence, flat buyers’ concerns should have been dismissed.
Flat buyers filed 173 complaints, of which 69 have been resolved, 83 are awaiting hearing before the Authority, and 19 are awaiting conciliation. There were 112 appeals before the tribunal, 42 of which were settled, and 53 of which were granted a pre-deposit order.
The builder’s counsel then requested further time, claiming that the builder is willing to make the deposit in five months and has agreed to pay the interest deposit in five months, as well as not to create third-party rights in four shops at Arcade, Rivali Park in Borivali, valued at around Rs 12 crore.
The HC ordered that if the builder and flat buyers do not reach a settlement within five months, the builder is free to seek a revision of the ruling.
Section 43(5) of the Act envisages the filing of an appeal before the appellate tribunal against the order of an authority or the adjudicating officer by any person aggrieved and where the promoter intends to appeal against an order of authority or adjudicating officer against imposition of penalty, the promoter has to deposit at least 30 per cent of the penalty amount or such higher amount as may be directed by the appellate tribunal.
If the appeal is against any other order involving the return of funds to the allottee, the promoter must deposit with the appellate tribunal the total amount to be paid to the allottee, including any interest and compensation owed to him, if any, or both, as the case may be, before the appeal is filed.