R.K. Anand, Member
1. The applicant/ complainant, Smt. Maya Devi Goel has made a complaint under Section 10(a)(iii) read with Sections 36A and 2(o)(ii) of the MRTP Act, 1969 (the Act for brief) charging the respondent, the Uttar Pradesh Housing and Development Board with adoption of any indulgence in unfair and restrictive trade practices and stating therein, that in response to an advertisement, issued by the respondent, she booked an LIG flat and deposited registration amount of Rs. 3,000/- on 17th April, 1982 and, accordingly, she was registered for allotment of the same at Ghaziabad vide Registration No. GZB(L-7530). The approximate cost of the LIG Flat consisting of one or two rooms with kitchen, bath and WC, on hire purchase basis, was indicated as Rs. 16,000/- to Rs. 25,000/- and the amount was to be paid in 15 years in 180 monthly instalments of Rs. 125/- to Rs. 240/- and the rate of interest chargeable from her was 8% to 10%. It has been further complained by her that in September, 1987 the respondent enhanced the registration amount from Rs. 3,000/- to Re. 5,000/- and asked the applicant to deposit the same and also threatened the applicant to deposit the balance registration amount of Rs. 2,000/- along with the delay charges of Rs. 300/- failing which her registration would be cancelled. It has been stated by her that she deposited Rs 2,300/- through demand draft dated 10.3.1988 drawn on the Bank of India. Her grievance is that instead of making available the LIG flat booked by her, the respondent further raised the registration deposit from Rs. 5,000/- to Rs. 20,000/- and asked her to pay the balance amount of Rs. 15,000/- or surrender the registration certificate failing which the registration would be cancelled.
2. On the basis of the above complaint, a Notice of Enquiry dated 10.1.1997 was issued to the respondent and in reply thereto, it has been stated on behalf of the respondent that both the time-frame of 5 years during which the possession of the fiat, in question, wag to be given, and also its approximate cost was subject to change and escalation. It is also admitted that the registration amount was revised in 1986 and again in 1992 from Rs. 3,000/- to Rs. 5,000/- and from Rs. 5,000/- to Rs. 20,000/- respectively,
3. It may also be mentioned here that the applicant/complainant also moved an interim relief application under Section 12A of the Act and accordingly, vide the Commission’s order of 4.11.1996 the respondent was directed not to cancel the registration of the flat No. GZB/L-7530 at Ghaziabad made in her favour, till further orders.
4. On completion of pleadings, the following issues were framed :
(1) Whether the respondent is indulging in unfair/restrictive trade practices as alleged in the Notice of Enquiry ? ”
(2) Whether the said unfair/restrictive trade practices are prejudicial to public interest or to the interest of the consumer or consumers generally ?
5. During the pendency of the present proceeding an application was made on behalf of the applicant/complainant for delivery of documents and for better and further particulars. By way of evidence an affidavit of Shri V.P. Goel, husband of the applicant/complainant was filed and he was also cross-examined, whereas on behalf of the respondent, Shri R.C. Tripathi, Assistant Housing Commissioner, appeared as a witness, and was cross-examined.
6. We have also heard the learned Advocates representing the applicant/complainant and the respondent. It is not disputed or denied that applications were invited by the respondent for its housing scheme for the lower income group in different districts in U.P. including at Ghaziabad in February, 1982 and the applicant/complainant who applied for one such flat, was registered for allotment of a LIG flat at Ghaziabad. It is also evident from the Court record that she deposited the registration amount, initially of Rs. 3,000/-and subsequently as demanded by the respondent additional Amounts of Rs. 2,000/- and Rs. 300/- were also paid through Bank Drafts and same were acknowledged by the respondent. It also transpires that the applicant was not given allotment even though she kept on waiting for a considerable period of time. It is also evident from the reply filed by the respondent that the registration amount was further enhanced to Rs. 20,000/- as the cost of the LIG flat was revised to Rs. 2 lacs and the difference between the registration amount already paid and the enhanced amount was demanded from the applicant/complainant and the applicant/ complainant was required to deposit the additional amount till 30.10.1996 failing which she could get refund of the amount already deposited by her. It is also not disputed or denied that the applicant/complainant was not given the refund of the amount.
7. In the meantime, however, certain developments took place and the applicant/ complainant wrote a letter dated 26.5.2000 to Shri R.C. Tripathi, Asstt. Housing Commissioner of the respondent, stating therein that she had seen LIG flat No. B-310, 1st floor, in Sector 17, Vasundhara, Ghaziabad and she was willing to pay a sum of Rs. 1,00,000/- by July, 2000 and the balance amount in instalments, The grievance of the applicant/complainant is that she accepted the offer of an LIG flat in Ghaziabad which were built in 1994, not realising that she would be required to pay its current value of Rs. 4,37,989/- which the respondent, in its letter of 12.6.2000 asked her to pay after deducting the amount already deposited by her as registration amount. From the deposition of Shri R.C. Tripathi, Assistant Housing Commissioner of the respondent it transpires that the above amount included interest of Rs. 1,90,542/-. It has also been mentioned by him, in his deposition, that the neighbouring flat Nos. 308 and 309 were allotted in 1995 for an amount of Rs. 2,97,860/-while flat No. 307 which was allotted on 9,3.1995, the amount paid for it, was Rs. 1,98,000/- only.
8. The applicant/complainant is also aggrieved by the fact she has been asked to pay a much higher amount than that paid by allottees of neighbouring flats. From the facts brought on record by her and the same are not disputed or denied, it Appears that she was registered for allotment of an LIG flat in 1982 and she first paid the initial registration amount as also the revised registration amount as demanded by the respondent, subsequently, in 1987. It also transpires that she did not pay the additional registration amount of Rs. 15,000/- demanded by the respondent in 1996. From the sequence of events narrated by her, it appears to us that there has been inordinate delay in the allotment of the flat, in question, to the applicant/complainant and as a result of it a flat which according to the respondent’s brochure was to cost between Rs. 16,000/- and 25,000/- has now been priced at Rs. 4,39,989/-. The concept of marking available flats to persons belonging to low income group, is negated it the price escalation is 16 times from Rs. 25,000/- to more than Rs. 4 lacs. Even though it is true that the applicant/complainant has accepted the offer of a flat in Vasundhara and has agreed to pay its cost, it has not been indicated in her letter that she was willing to pay its current value which according to the respondent worked out to Rs. 4,37,989/-. There is no doubt that she would be put to lot of financial hardship if she is asked to pay the cost of the flat including the interest amount of nearly Rs. 2,00,000/- for no fault of hers. It is also worthy of note that at no point of time was the registration cancelled or she was asked to deposit the cost of the flat at Vasundhara in Ghaziabad and take its possession even though the flats in question are reported to have been constructed in 1994. In that view of the matter, it appears to us that there is no justification for charging the interest amount of Rs. 1,81,000/- which has been shown in the break-up of the cost of flat in the testimony of Shri. R.C. Tripathi.
9. The respondent Housing Board has been set up by the State Government of Uttar Pradesh for providing houses to persons belonging to economically weaker sections and low income groups at affordable prices and at no profit no loss basis. Therefore, it was obligatory on the part of the respondent not only to complete the construction and make available the LIG flats within a reasonable time-frame of about 4 to 5 years but also at affordable prices. An amount of Rs. 4,39,989/- for an LIG flat can, by no stretch of imagination, be considered to be a reasonable price, or an affordable price, and that too, after having made the applicant/complainant wait for such a long time. Announcing a housing scheme, inviting applications and accepting registration amount in 1982 and then not being able to offer possession within a reasonable time-frame and, ultimately, offering allotment in 2000 and that too, at an exorbitant price of Rs. 4,39,989/- inclusive of interest amount of Rs. 1,81,000/- constitutes an unfair trade practice on the part of the respondent within the meaning of Section 36A of the Act. There has been deficiency in services provided by the respondent and to that extent the respondent can be said to have adopted and indulged in unfair trade practices within the meaning of Section 36A(I}(ii) of the Act. It may be mentioned here that according to the definition of ‘service’ contained in Section 2(r) of the Act, service includes provision of facilities in connection with real estate.
10. The respondent Uttar Pradesh Housing and Development Board was intended to provide houses and developed plots to all classes of society at the cheapest possible price with emphasis on constructing maximum number of houses for the economically weaker section of the community and for those in the lower income group. These are the stated aims and objects of the respondent as highlighted in the Registration Booklet enclosed with the present complaint petition. In view of our above discussion, the
respondent can be said to have been deficient in providing service as defined in Section 2(r) of the Act to the applicant/complainant. The respondent has not been able to provide an LIG flat to the applicant/complainant at the cheapest possible price as LIG flat for which an amount of Rs. 4,39,989/- is being demanded from the applicant/complainant can’t be described as cheap considering the fact that the applicant7 complainant belongs to the lower income group. We, therefore, direct the respondent to cease the impugned trade practices and to desist from adoption of the same in future. We also direct the respondent to waive the interest amount by way of relief to the applicant/complainant. The respondent is further directed to file an affidavit by way of compliance within six weeks from the date of pronouncing the order.