Flat Owners’ Association That Are Formed Due to Mandate of Law Cannot File a Consumer Complaint: Supreme Court
The Supreme Court in its verdict held that an association which consists of members of flat owners in a building, registered compulsorily under the provisions of Karnataka Apartment Ownership Act, 1972, cannot be said to be a voluntary organisation. Therefore it cannot file a complaint under the Consumer Protection Act against any deficiency in goods or services under the welfare legislation.This order came when two judge bench was considering an appeal against the National Commission order which rejected the complaint filed by the Association on the ground that it has no locus standi to file the complaint since neither it is a ‘consumer’ nor it is a ‘recognised consumer association’ within the meaning of Section 12 of the Act.
A bench of Justices Mohan M Shantanagoudar and R Subhash Reddy passed their judgement while dismissing a civil appeal filed by Sobha Hibiscus Condominium against Managing Director of M/s Sobha Developers Ltd. They explained the term voluntary consumer association as a body formed by a group of persons coming together, of their own will and without any pressure or influence from anyone and without being mandated by any other provisions of law.
In the instant case, the complainant is a statutory body under the provisions of Karnataka Apartment Ownership Act. It consists of members, who are the owners of an apartment called “Shoba Hibiscus”. The Apex Court said that it is clear from the objects of the said Act that it was enacted with a view to provide for the ownership of an individual apartment in a building to make such apartment heritable and transferable property. Once the apartments are registered under this Act, the owners, among other rights, would also get an undivided interest in the common areas and facilities of the apartment complex.
However, the mandatory provision of the law for registration of the flat owners’ association takes away its voluntariness, precluding it to invoke the consumer law. Going through the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, the court said the statute made it clear that any recognised consumer association could file a complaint but such a group had to be of voluntary nature, registered under the Companies Act, 1956 or any other law.
The Supreme Court said that a voluntary consumer association is a body formed by a group of persons coming together, of their own will and without any pressure or influence from anyone and without being mandated by any other provisions of law.
In the said instance therefore the association formed by the members of the “Shoba Hibiscus” cannot be recognised as a consumer association because it has come into existence pursuant to a declaration which is required to be made compulsorily under the provisions of 1972 Act. Since it is not a ‘consumer’ or a ‘recognised consumer association’ within the meaning of Section 12 of the Act, it cannot file a complaint.