Investing in a property is often fraught with risks. That’s the reason why one has to tread carefully and scrutinize each and every paper connected with the property.
Maragatham of Dindigul in Tamil Nadu was aware of this. But despite due diligence, she ended up paying for a property that could never be hers. How did it happen?
Well, this is not a brainteaser, but a real case that came up before the consumer court some time ago. And I am quoting this case in response to a number of questions from readers about the accountability of civic authorities under the Consumer Protection Act.
In this particular case, Maragatham had relied on the encumbrance certificate issued by the District Registrar’s office, which however was incomplete and erroneous.
Now an encumbrance certificate, generally issued by municipal authorities after collecting a fee, should contain a complete list of all acts and encumbrances affecting the property in question (this might include a mortgage, deeds of trust, unpaid property taxes, tax liens) and should provide details of all sale and registration pertaining to the property.
But the certificate issued by the District Registrar’s office did not show the purchase of the property by a third person.
In response to her complaint against the joint sub-registrar, who issued the certificate, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission awarded a compensation of Rs 10,000. While doing so, the commission brushed aside the sub-registrar’s contention that he was discharging a statutory duty for which he cannot be held liable under the Consumer Protection Act. (The Joint Sub Registrar, District Registrar’s office, Dindigul District Vs TMT Margatham, Palani, Revision petition no 1444 of 2004, decided on March 5, 2007).
Mr S.C. Aggarwal asks: It’s more than six months since I submitted my house building plans for sanction from the town planning authority. (he does not say which town or city). But till now, no action has been taken by the authorities and this is delaying construction of my house for which I have already taken a loan. Can I go to the consumer court against them?
Answer: I suggest you complain to higher authorities or use the RTI and get the sanction first. Then you can file a complaint before the consumer court for the loss suffered on account of the delay.
The only requirement under the CP Act is that the service against which you are filing a complaint should be paid for and not free. Then in the case of Board of Secondary Education Vs Sasmita Moharana (FA NO 15 of 2007), the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission held that examination boards too could be held accountable for deficient and negligent services.
The highest consumer court has taken a very strong view of such deficient services by civic authorities.
In response to two complaints filed against the Nagarapalika Parishad, Haldwani, for example, the Commission had commented that such behaviour by the civic authorities constituted “malafide exercise of power”. Also calling it an abuse of power by the officers, the Commission observed that “if this is tolerated, crime and corruption would thrive and prosper in the society due to lack of public resistance”.