Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Competition Commission of India (CCI): A Four member bench comprising of Sudhir Mital, Chairperson and Augustine Peter, UC Nahta, members and GP Mitta, J., directed for a matter to be closed under Section 26(2) of the Competition Act, 2002 due to the dispute falling under the arena of a consumer forum.

The issue raised in the present matter was filed under Section 19(1) (a) of the Competition Act, 2002 against Shoppers Stop Limited (OP) alleged to have contravened Section 3 of the said Act. The Informant had shopped for an amount of Rs 6,495 from the OP for which he had received two discount coupons worth Rs 500. The informant on his next purchase wished to get his coupons redeemed but was denied on the ground that for redemption there is a requirement of minimum shopping for Rs 4000/ to be done, in regard to the stated fact, the Informant submitted that he was not aware about this condition and due to being a senior citizen he was unable to read the same at the back of the coupon.

Further, the commission on giving due consideration to the submissions of the Informant, clarified by referring to the case of Sanjeev Pandey v. Mahindra & Mahindra, Case No. 17 of 2012 that the CCI is primarily aimed to curb the anti-competitive practices and consumer protection Act, 1985 protects the interests of individual consumers against the unfair practices.

Hence, in the present matter, the dispute is a consumer dispute and no prima facie case is being made out against the OP, therefore, the case has been ordered to be closed under Section 26(2) of the Act. [Rajendra Agarwal v. Shoppers Stop Limited,2018 SCC OnLine CCI 62, order dated 30-07-2018]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): A Single Member Bench of NCDRC presided by V.K. Jain, J. upheld the order of State Commission of Haryana granting relief of about Rs two lakh from the Indian Farmers Fertilizers Cooperative Limited (IFFCO, the petitioner) for selling “adulterated” seeds to two farmers who suffered financial losses due to poor yield.

According to the complainant farmers, they were assured by the petitioner that the seeds would give proper yield of 8 to10 quintals per acre. On poor yield, they made complainants to the Agriculture Department which carried out an inspection and found the plants to be of different variety and about 60-70% of the plants with high growth without any fruits. The complainants approached the  District Forum concerned. Their claims were denied by the District Forum but were upheld by the State Commission on appeal. Aggrieved petitioner approached NCRDC.

The emphasis of the petitioner’s arguments was that that despite circular dated 03.01.2002, the Agriculture Department did not associate representative of the Seed Agency and the Scientists of KGK/KVK, HAU in the inspection and the report was prepared at the back of the petitioner without any notice to it.

Commission relied on its own decision in Reliance Life Sciences Pvt. Ltd. v. Umesh Singh Chandan Singh Saddiwal, 2016 SCC OnLine NCDRC 78 and Apex’s Court judgment in Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co. Ltd. v. Alavalapati Chandra Reddy, (1998) 6 SCC 738. The Commission held that the failure of the Seed Inspector or for that matter District Level Enquiry Committee to follow the procedure under Seed Act or Rules thereunder cannot be fatal to a complaint, filed under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act. Hence, such failure cannot lead to dismissal of a Consumer Complaint, if the complainant is otherwise able to prove his case. Commission also noted that there is no way by which a farmer can compel the seed inspector or the committee to follow the said procedure. [IFFCO v. Vijay Kumar, Revision Petition No. 912 of 2018, order dated 14-06-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a 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,2018 SCC OnLine NCDRC 242, 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]