NCLT Delhi Upholds Homebuyers’ Status As Financial Creditors: A Landmark Verdict

Posted On - 6 March, 2024 • By - Ajay Lulla

In a recent ruling in the case of Tarun Ahuja and Ors. Vs Puri Construction Private Limited before the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) in New Delhi, the status of homebuyers as financial creditors under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) has been reaffirmed, regardless of whether relief was sought by them before other authorities including but not limited to the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) or the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) prior to approaching a recourse before the Tribunal. This landmark decision sheds light on the rights and protections afforded to homebuyers amidst corporate insolvency proceedings.

The case in question pertained to a Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process (CIRP) petition filed by homebuyers under Section 7 of the IBC. It was argued by the Corporate Debtor in the present case that homebuyers who had approached RERA or NCDRC should not be considered financial creditors, however, the division bench at NCLT, Delhi citing Section 5(8)(f) of the IBC upheld the status of homebuyers as financial creditors.

Under Section 5(8)(f) of the IBC, financial debt includes any amount raised under transactions having the commercial effect of borrowing. This includes debts disbursed against the consideration for the time value of money, encompassing the financial commitments made by homebuyers in real estate projects. Therefore, even though some allottees had previously pursued remedies through RERA or NCDRC, their status as financial creditors remained unchanged.

The matter at hand involved homebuyers who had reserved units in a real estate project developed by the Corporate Debtor. Despite making payments and receiving provisional allotment letters, the Corporate Debtor failed to deliver possession within the agreed timeframe, citing various reasons including incomplete payments by some allottees and external factors such as construction halts due to pollution and other environmental issues.

The Corporate Debtor argued that allottees who had approached RERA or NCDRC should not be considered financial creditors under the IBC. However, the Tribunal rejected this contention, emphasizing that the essence of the IBC is to provide a comprehensive framework for resolving corporate insolvencies, and the status of financial creditors is determined by the nature of the debt rather than the forum through which redressal is sought.

Additionally, the Tribunal addressed the issue of threshold limits for filing a petition under Section 7 of the IBC. While the Corporate Debtor claimed that the application lacked the required number of allottees, the Tribunal clarified that the threshold must be met at the time of filing the petition. Subsequent withdrawals by certain allottees due to settlements with the Corporate Debtor did not affect the maintainability of the petition.

This verdict by the NCLT reinforces the position of homebuyers as significant stakeholders in corporate insolvency proceedings. It underscores the importance of protecting the interests of individuals who invest their savings in real estate projects, especially in cases where developers fail to fulfill their contractual obligations.

Furthermore, the ruling provides clarity on the interpretation of key provisions within the IBC, ensuring a consistent and equitable approach to resolving disputes involving homebuyers and corporate debtors. It sets a precedent for future cases involving similar issues and reaffirms the principles of fairness and justice within the insolvency framework.

In conclusion, the NCLT’s decision serves as a beacon of hope for homebuyers seeking redressal for their grievances in the face of corporate insolvency. By upholding their status as financial creditors, the Tribunal has taken a significant step towards safeguarding the rights of homebuyers and promoting transparency and accountability in the real estate sector.