Local body had cleared her application but reneged on payment

In an unusual case, a beneficiary of a government housing scheme secured an order from the Dakshina Kannada District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum directing Aryapu Grama Panchayath in Puttur Taluk to release Rs.75,000 along with interest at the rate of 12 per cent per annum. The forum also asked the panchayat to pay Rs. 2,000 to Susheela of Kuria Village in Puttur Taluk as cost of the litigation expenses. 

Ms. Susheela, a beneficiary of Basava Vasathi Scheme, had approached the forum saying she is a low-income group citizen and belong to Naik community and that she was granted financial assistance of Rs.75,000 under the scheme to construct a house on August 8, 2012. 

Before sanctioning the amount, the panchayat development officer (PDO) verified original application, agreement, mortgage letter, sale deed, house construction licence, and income and caste certificate, she said.The amount was to be released in four instalments — Rs. 15,000 after completion of foundation, Rs. 20,000 each after erection of walls, completion of roof and after completion of entire house, in that order. She was assured that money would be released in due process. She continued the construction of the house by taking loans from relatives and friends.

Ms. Susheela said that the panchayat had not responded to her subsequent appeals for payment. When her legal notice, too, yielded no response she approached the forum seeking direction to pay up the money with interest and compensation besides cost of the proceedings.

The forum delivered its judgement ex-parte recently as the PDO did not appear before it despite receiving the notice.

It observed, “Once the official order has been issued, it is the bounden duty of the Opposite Party to release the amount without any delay or at least within reasonable time in a case of this nature. But in the instant case, it is proved beyond doubt that, the Opposite Party (has) not released the amount … (it) amounts to deficiency in service.”

Criticising the failure of the PDO to appear before it, the forum said it “shows their conduct”. It has directed immediate release of the amount to facilitate construction of the house.

It ruled that interest awarded is to be treated as compensation.

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