Justice delayed, but not denied. Housing Societies are within the ambit of Service Providers, the Maharashtra State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission ruled. It ordered an Andheri (West) Society to hand over a 900 sq.ft flat to a woman who paid for it in 2001 but did not get possession.

Vithaldham Cooperative Housing Society Ltd will also pay Vaibhavi Khot Rs 2 lakh compensation towards mental harassment and inconvenience and Rs 25,000 towards costs of the complaint.

Holding the Society guilty of Deficiency in Service, the Commission said the Housing Society is a 'Service Provider' to the complainant. The Commission quashed the 200 District Forum Order and said Khot was a lawful member of the Society who had paid the entire construction cost and was deprived of her lawful right of occupying the flat. The Panel observed that not only this, but without occupying the flat, she was paying Maintenance Charges to the Society and the action on part of the Society is totally arbitrary and cannot be supported.

After her mother's death in 1996, Khot requested the Society to make her a member in her place and the General Body admitted it. Through a letter dated November 7, 2000, the Society informed Khot to deposit Rs 7.58 lakh and take over the possession of the flat. Khot paid the amount and subsequently also paid Rs 41,164 towards Maintenance Charges. The Society then directed her to pay an additional Rs 4 lakh as interest accumulated on account of non-payment of dues by her mother. The Society also initiated proceedings against Khot before the District Deputy Registrar of Cooperative Societies.

In 2004, Khot filed a complaint before the Forum. The Society contested the complaint and said that it was false, fabricated, vague, unspecific and lacking in material. It said that as per the Resolution passed by the General Body, the possession was to be given only on full payment of the construction cost and interest for overdue instalments. It also stated that it was not a Service Provider according to the Consumer Protection Act. On December 31, 2007, the District Forum rejected the complaint. Khot then filed a complaint in the State Commission.

The Commission took into consideration two allotment letters both dated March 16, 2000, given to Khot by the Society. The Commission pointed out that in one letter, there is no mention of the interest to be paid, while in another letter, there is mention of interest to be paid. The Commission observed that a subsequent letter sent in November 2000, which did not specify anything about the interest, rendered the earlier letters redundant. It said the Society miserably failed to bring on record the alleged decision of the General Body to charge interest. "We find the case has a chequered history," the Commission said.