Calcutta, June 17: An 81-year-old resident of south Calcutta has notched up a dubious first, becoming the first person in the state to land in prison straight from the consumer court.
Though A.K. Sengupta spent only one day in prison — his lawyers managed to get him out on bail 24 hours after he was arrested by Kasba police — state consumer affairs department officials say he has set a precedent.
Sengupta’s case, they explain, is the first instance in which a consumer court made use of a 2002 amendment that allows it to attach property and hand a prison term.
Sengupta had entered into an agreement on October 27, 1999, with Shukla Barua of Jadavpur’s East Road that involved the sale of a flat at Ruby Park (East) in Kasba. The flat was supposed to cost more than Rs 4 lakh, according to the terms of the agreement, and Barua — a teacher of a school in south Calcutta — was to be given possession by March 2000.
Accordingly, Barua took a loan and started paying the amount agreed upon. The final instalment was paid in April 2000 but Sengupta refused to hand over the flat, Barua’s lawyer, Anjan Dutta, told the South 24-Parganas District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum.
Sengupta’s legal team, however, told the court that Barua had not paid the entire amount agreed upon and he was, therefore, forced to hold back the flat.
The bench decided that it was Sengupta who did not keep his part of the deal. The forum ordered him to hand over the flat to Barua and pay her a compensation of Rs 5,000, besides giving her Rs 1,000 more for the expenses she had incurred in fighting the legal battle. The flat was to be handed over within 60 days of February 18, 2002, the day the order was passed.
Barua waited for two months but did not get the flat. Dutta filed another petition in June last year. The court issued an arrest warrant and Sengupta was picked up from his residence on May 1, this year.
His lawyers moved the Alipore sub-divisional judicial magistrate for bail but the court said the case fell within the jurisdiction of the consumer court, which granted bail the next day.
Sengupta’s legal team has appealed to the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.