NEW DELHI: “Builders only understand the colour of money or a jail term,” said the Supreme Court on Thursday as it held a real estate firm guilty of contempt for wilfully not complying with its order and imposed a fine of Rs 15 lakh on it.

The top court directed that Rs 15 lakh be deposited by real estate firm Ireo Grace Realtech Pvt Ltd to National Legal Service Authority and Rs two lakh to the home buyers towards the cost of litigation, whose refund was not paid as directed by the top court.

A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and M R Shah noted that on January 5 it has affirmed the last year verdict of National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) dated August 28 directing refund with 9 per cent interest.

“We have directed you on January 5 to pay the refund amount within two months. Then you (builder) filed a plea seeking modification of the order, which we dismissed in March and directed you to pay the money within two months to the home buyers. Now, again the home buyers are before us with a contempt plea that you have not paid the money. We have to impose exemplary costs or have to send someone to jail. Builders only understand the colour of money or a jail term,” the bench said.

The Counsel for the realty firm said that they have made RTGS payment of Rs 58.20 lakh today itself and ready with a demand draft of Rs 50 lakh more to be paid to the home buyers.

The bench said, “you were supposed to make the payment in March but now in August you are saying that now you will do. You have wilfully not complied with our orders. We will not allow this to go lightly”.

The counsel said she is apologising for the delay and inconvenience caused.

However, the bench said, “We find the apology unacceptable. Every strategy was adopted by the builder to not comply with the order”.

The top court said, “There is deliberate and clear breach of order of this court. Therefore the respondent (builder) is held guilty for contempt. There is no justification provided for delay in making payment. We direct that the entire amount payable to the petitioner (home buyer) be made during the business hours of the day”.

It directed that the builder shall pay Rs two lakh to home buyer towards litigation cost and penalty of Rs 15 lakh payable to NALSA.

One Shaheena Chadha and others have moved the consumer forum seeking refund of the amount paid to the builder firm on ground of delay in possession of their flat in group housing project known as “The Corridors” situated in Sector 67, Gurgaon of Haryana.

According to the complainants against the total consideration of Rs.2,02,71,390, they had paid Rs. 62,31,906 to the builder and the agreement was executed on March 24, 2014.

As per the agreement the possession of the flat was to be given within 42 months with a grace period of six months from the date of approval of the plan.

They said that the allotment letter was issued on August 7, 2013 and the plan was approved by the competent authority on July 25, 2013 and therefore the possession was due in January, 2017.

They had said that there was no demand from the builder for more payment, right from 2013, therefore no further amount was paid by the complainant.

On August 28, 2020, the NCDRC directed the builder firm to refund an amount of Rs 62, 31, 906 to the home buyers along with interest at the rate of 9 per cent per annum from the date of respective deposits till actual payment.

It directed the order be complied by the builder firm within a period of 60 days from the date of receipt of the order.

The real estate firm challenged the order in the top court, which dismissed the plea and upheld the order of NCDRC on January 5 and directed for payment of the amount in two months.