Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a full court decision, Indu Malhotra, J. speaking for herself and Dipak Mishra, CJ and Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, J. gave directions to the State Governments to frame appropriate rules under Consumer Protection Act 1986, to address the issue of paucity of infrastructure in consumer fora all over the country.

In January 2016, Supreme Court constituted a three-member committee headed by (Retired) Justice Arijit Pasayat to examine various aspects relating to the issue as mentioned above. In November 2016, directions were issued to the Union Government to frame Model Rules under Sections 10(3) and 16(2) of Consumer Protection Act 1986, for the purpose of ensuring uniformity by the State Governments. In compliance with the said direction, Union of India filed final Draft Model Rules in March 2017, which have been accepted by all the parties concerned.

At this juncture, Supreme Court directed the State Governments to frame rules under Section 30 of the Act within three months in accordance with the Model Rules as framed by the Union. Further, directions were issued to the Union of India to address the matter of creation of additional posts in National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) as well as the expansion of its infrastructure. The matter was directed to be listed on August 28. [State of U.P. v. All U.P. Consumer Protection Bar Association, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 570, dated 18-05-2018]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): The perusal of the ‘Green’ guidelines for Haj-2008 in its clause 18 gave clarity on “Haj Committee of India not being in the purview of Consumer Protection Act 1986, which is not liable to compensate any pilgrims intending to go on ‘Haj’ pilgrimage.” The Bench comprising of V.K. Jain, J. (Presiding Member), dismissed the complaint on the above-stated basis.

The complainants were pilgrims intending to go for Haj pilgrimage and had applied accordingly. The procedure for the pilgrims to be chosen was done on the basis of draw of lots in which the complainants’ name appeared in a reserved quota and for that, they had paid an amount of Rs. 96,940/- which was the focal point of the complaint as the aggrieved had asked for the refund of the excess amount on not being accommodated in the ‘Green’ category and instead being placed in the ‘Azizia’ category but paying an amount equivalent to the same.

Therefore, the Commission on noting that the State Commission had allowed an appeal in favour of the complainants and the petitioner had filed a revision petition there against, concluded that the Haj Committee rendered its services without any profit motive and the pilgrims intending to go for the Haj pilgrimage, on their own, sign the declaration stating that they would not ask for any claims from the Haj Committee of India as it is not covered under Section 2(1)(d) of the Consumer Protection Act 1986 and thereby the consumer forum held no jurisdiction in the said case, which lead the NCDRC to set aside the impugned order and dismiss the complaint. [Haj Committee of India v. Abbas Ali, Revision Petition No. 981 of 2018, dated 04.06.2018]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission:  The Commission held that if a complaint is filed beyond a period of two years from when the cause of action has happened the same will not be entertained, unless there are sufficient reasons for condoning the delay in filing the appeal.

The Consumer Forum through a Division Bench, comprising of, B.C. Gupta, Presiding Member and S.M. Kantikar, Member dismissed an appeal filed by M/S. Kiran Gems Pvt. Ltd. The brief facts, being that the appellant company had purchased an insurance policy from the respondent, to cover all the damages that may arise in the normal course of business ,but upon the actual event of an abnormal activity, the Insurance Company did not entertain the full claim of the appellant and the same being under dispute between the two parties, in the present case. The appellant also contested that the Insurance company owed a total sum of Rs 35,15,014 to them, and further argued that the dismissal of their previous complaint regarding the same matter (Miscellaneous Application, MA/90/2011) is not valid.

The Commission held that the appeal was filed beyond the mentioned time period of 2 years and because of this delay the appellant cannot be heard. The Bench also referred to the judgment of Anshul Aggarwal v. New Okhla Industrial Development Authority, (2011) 14 SCC 578 in which the Hon’ble Apex Court held that:

“It is also apposite to observe that while deciding an application filed in such cases for condonation of delay, the Court has to keep in mind that the special period of limitation has been prescribed under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 for filing appeals and revisions in consumer matters and the object of expeditious adjudication of the consumer disputes will get defeated if this Court was to entertain highly belated petitions filed against the orders of the Consumer Foras.”

The Bench ordered the dismissal of the appeal because there was a delay of 2178 days in filing the complaint and no remarkable justification was given by the appellant while explaining this delay.  [M/s Kiran Gems Pvt. Ltd. v. Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd., Appeal Number 1718 of 2016, decided on 12-12-2017]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

High Court of Calcutta: In a recent judgment, Single Judge Bench of Debangsu Basak, J. decided upon the constitutional status of Section 13(3) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

Section 13(3) of the Act states that, “No proceedings complying with the procedure laid down in sub-sections (1) and (2) shall be called in question in any court on the ground that the principles of natural justice have not been complied with.” The petitioner submitted to the Court that by taking away matters of principles of natural justice in proceedings under the Act 0f 1986 outside the court’s jurisdiction, the sub-section is ultra vires the Constitution.

While defending the Central Act, the Additional Solicitor General relied upon the Supreme Court judgment in State of Karnataka v. Vishwabhuthi House Building Co-operative Society, 2003 2 SCC 412, which upheld the vires of the Act. He further explained, with reference to Section 13(3) of the Act, the section sets a requisite for the forum constituted under the Act to adhere to principles of natural justice, rather than completely excluding the application of the principles as alleged by the petitioner. He further pleaded to the Court that it must observe its duty to uphold the authority of the Central Act, and in his final submission stated that it was within the jurisdiction of the legislature to limit the applicability of the principles of natural justice.

The Court observed that time and again, courts have assumed responsibility when the any order passed by the fora were in breach of principles of natural justice, in both procedural and substantial matters. In its final order pertaining to this issue, the Court relied upon a number of Supreme Court judgments and the fact that the forum is not immune to judicial scrutiny to declare that the section in question could not be unconstitutional. [Vodafone Mobile Services Ltd. v. The State of West Bengal, 2017 SCC OnLine Cal 5070, decided on 16-05-2017]