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Legal Actions and Consumer Complaint against Housing Cooperatives in West Bengal and Kolkata

Introduction:

Legal Actions and Consumer Complaint against Housing Co-operatives in West Bengal is a vital topic to be discussed here. There are different disputes arising day by day in Housing Co-operatives. So, there are few Acts which are formulated by the State and Central government as well. These Acts or Rules provide different remedies to the members as well as the Housing Co-operatives to deal with different disputes of the Housing Society.

There are different authorities made under the Acts to regulate the Housing Co-operatives. Registrar looks after the functions of the Housing Co-operative Societies along with other members of the authority.

Members of the Housing Co-operative Society approach to the under mentioned authorities to bring legal actions against the Housing Co-operative Society:

  1. Managing Committee of the Society: At first the member of the Housing Co-operative who is deprived of his or her rights or anything in the Society approaches to the Managing Committee of the Housing Co-operative Society for relief or to get solution for the problem and if the Managing committee provides no fair solution or refuses to take the matter then the Aggrieved member approaches to the police for relief.
  2. Police Complaint: This is the second step after approaching to the Managing Committee of the Society. The aggrieved member then files a police complaint against the Housing Society for relief.
  3. Co-operative Tribunal: The aggrieved party then files a complaint in the office of the Registrar to get fair justice. The Registrar looks into the matter and investigates the dispute and after investigation, he passes the award that is justice to the aggrieved party.

Complaints in different Authorities to be raised are:

Complaint to Registrar is to be made on the matters as follows:

 1) non-occupancy charges

2) Registration of society on misrepresentation

3) Non-maintenance or incomplete maintenance of records and books

4) Misappropriation of funds

5) Non-supply of copies of record and documents

6) Investment of funds without prior permission

7) Non-calling of General Body Meeting

8) Resignation of committee

9) Audit

10) Non conducting of an election before the expiry of the term of a committee

A complaint in Co-operative court is to be made on the matters as follows:

 1) Unequal water supply

2) Excess recovery of dues from members

 3) Repairs, internal repairs, leakages.

 4) Parking

5) Escalation of construction cost

 Complaint to Police is to be made on the matters as follows:

 1) Nuisance carried out by unauthorized use of flat / shop/parking space / open space by member or builder.

2) Threatening/assault by or to the member of society

3) Creating noise after prescribed deadline hour in the evening

Complaint to General Body is to be made on the matters as follows:

 1) Not allowing authenticated use of the available open space of the society by managing committee

2) Non-maintenance of property by a managing committee

3) Levy of excess fine

Some of the provisions of disputes and their reliefs are discussed below:

 West Bengal Co-operative Societies Rules, 2011

Reference of a dispute (Rule 166):

A dispute should be made in writing which is known as plaint and this should be filed before the Registrar and should contain the followings –

  • It should contain the names, description and addresses of the parties.
  • It should contain a statement of the subject of disputes and copies of documents of it.
  • It should contain the relief prayed for and so on.

Procedure for disposal of disputes (Rule 170):

(1) In this Rule, it is said that to settle a dispute the board of Arbitrators or the arbitrator shall fix the date, time and place of hearing of the dispute and they also have power to allow representation by agent or guardian or next friends.

(2) Here, it says that the Board of Arbitrators or the Arbitrator shall send a notice or summon to the plaintiff and respondent before 15 days of their hearing so that they can arrange relevant documents and evidence.

 (3) The first and subsequent notice or summon can be served on a party to the dispute or his agent or on a adult member of a family.

(4) Here, it says that the service of notice or summon on anyone like Chairman, Secretary or Chief Executive and whatever their designation is, the service will be regarded as the service on the Co-operative.

(5) Here, it says that the serving officer who delivers a copy of a summons or notice personally to an agent or other person on his behalf then he shall require the signature of the person to whom the copy is delivered.

 (6) It provides that serving officer shall in all cases in which the summon or notice is served  and cause to be endorsed on, the original summon or notice, return stating the time when and manner in which the summon or notice was served and the name, signature and address of the person, if any identifying the person and witnessing the delivery.   

 (7) It states that the sufficiency of the proof of service of the notice and summons should be decided by an individual who issued it.

(8) When the summons or notice is served on time and if the plaintiff is absent on the hearing date ten the case will be dismissed for default and if the defendant is absent then the case perhaps decided ex-parte and if both the parties are present then the case will proceed and the defendant has to submit on the first date of hearing a written statement along with copies of documents.

 (9) It is also said that each of the parties can check the documents of other party for verification of the originality and so on.

It is also said that the Board can call for expert to give opinions on technical matters. The board also has power to give opportunity of hearing to the parties.

 Award or decision (Rule 171):

(1) This rule says that the board will pass the decision after hearing both the parties.

Order for dissolution of a Co-operative Society (Rule 177):

This rule speaks about the dissolution of the Co-operative Society. When the Registrar passes an order for dissolution of the Societies, he should publish the order in the locality, communicate the order to the Co-operative and so on.

The above-mentioned Rules explain the reference of disputes, filing of disputes, disposal of disputes, a procedure for disposal of disputes, dissolution of the Co-operative Society and so on. So, any member of the Housing Society deprived of their rights or anything else can follow the above-mentioned rules to get an award or decision.

  • Consumer Forum: Lastly, the aggrieved party moves to the Consumer Forum when he finds that the dispute is related to the deficiency in service or defective in goods. The Consumer Forum acts where there is a deficiency in service and defective in goods and it does not deal with other cases. There is three Commission at a different level to handle consumer disputes such as District Commission, State Commission, and the National Commission.

Some of the important Sections are discussed below:

These below sections are provided by the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.

  1. Section 5 talks about the complainant and according to this section complainant means a consumer, any voluntary consumer association registered under any law, the state government or Central government and so on.
  2. Section 6 talks about the complaint. Complaint means any allegation in writing made by the complainant for get relief under the Act.
  3. Section 7 speaks about the consumer. This section says that consumer means any person who buys goods for any consideration and which has been paid or promised or partly paid or partly promised and so on.
  4. This section talks about the consumer rights such as right to be protected against the marketing of goods and products or services which are harmful to life and property, right to be informed about the quality and quantity or purity, right to seek redressal against unfair trade practice and so on.
  5. A section 21 talk about the goods and it means every kind of movable property and food also which is defined under Food Safety and Standard Act, 2006.
  6.  Section 33 defines product. Product means any article or goods or raw material which has some value and which has capability of delivery and so on.
  7. Section 34 sub-section 1 provides that District Commission has jurisdiction to entertain complaints where the value of the goods or service does not exceed 1 crore rupees and so on.
  8. Section 47 sub-section 1 says that the State Government has jurisdiction to deal with complaints where the value of the goods or services exceeds rupees 1 crore but it should not exceed rupees 10 crore and so on.
  9. Section 58 sub-section 1 has power to entertain complaints where value of the goods or services exceeds rupees 10 crore and so on.

The above Sections define important terms such as Complaint, Complainant, Consumer Dispute, Consumer Rights, Product Service Provider, the jurisdiction of the Commissions and so on. The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 describes all the procedures and other necessary points to tackle the disputes of the consumer. Any person who falls under this purview can make a complaint to the Commissions mentioned above.

Case Analysis:

“Shri. P.K. Anna Patil Janta vs The State Of Maharashtra And on 1 August, 2018 Bombay High Court”

This case says that the petitioners (Housing Co-operative Society) had banking business but they had no financial improvement. So, the RBI (Reserve Bank of India) has cancelled its license to run the banking business. The Commissioner and the Registrar of the Housing Co-operative Societies also directed to wind up the banking activities of the Society. The Respondent filed a complaint before the Consumer Forum against the petitioner to refund the sum of money along with interest which was deposited by them but they failed to pay the amount then the respondent approached to the above-mentioned court for the same claim and the petitioner challenged the respondent and said that the Consumer Forum has no jurisdiction to entertain this case. Finally, the case is dismissed saying that the writ petition has no merit and liable to be dismissed and hence, it was dismissed.

“Sri Sourav Biswas vs T.E. Co-Operative Housing … on 26 July, 2018 State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission”

 “ The plain reading of the aforesaid provision makes it clear that the matter which are referable before the Registrar for settlement as per Section 102(1) of Act, 2006 the Civil Court or any Consumers’ Dispute Redressal Forum shall not have any jurisdiction to try such dispute.  The provisions of Section 102(1)(b) makes it manifestly clear that in case of any dispute between member of a cooperative society and the cooperative society shall be filed before the Registrar.  Therefore, in view of express bar as contained in Section 102(4) of Act, 2006, this dispute is not amenable before a Forum constituted under the Act.”

 “Consequently, the complaint is rejected.  However, this order will not debar the complainant to approach the appropriate Forum in accordance with law and in order to overcome the hurdle of limitation, if any, he may seek assistance of the decision of Hon’ble Supreme Court reported in (1995) 3 SCC 583 [Laxmi Engineering Works – Vs. – PSG Industrial Institute].”

The above case says that the petitioner has filed a case against the respondent because he booked a flat in the respondent’s Housing Society but the respondent had failed to deliver the possession on time. So, he claimed relief for the said purpose before the above mentioned Consumer Forum. In this case, it is seen that the Consumer Forum had no jurisdiction to deal with the said complaint and hence it was dismissed.

Conclusion:

 The above body has been written with great effort since the above-mentioned discussion contains about the legal actions and consumer complaints against the Housing Co-operative. It is seen that the members of the Housing Co-operative Society face many problems in day to day life. There are many cases where Co-operative society creates unnecessary problems for the members of the Society. So, in these cases, any member of the Co-operative Society can take legal action against the Co-operative Society. The members at first instance can file a complaint against the Housing Co-operative Society in the office of the Registrar and then they can approach to the Consumer Forum if they don’t get a fair judgment from the office of the Registrar and it should be kept in mind that the dispute must have a link with a deficiency in service or defective in goods. So, for proceeding with these cases, a member of the Housing Co-operative Society must consult with a lawyer to get a fair solution.

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