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15 Takeaways To Ace "Consumer Fora Litigation" In India

Shivam Goel
18 July 2020 4:37 AM GMT
15 Takeaways To Ace Consumer Fora Litigation In India
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  1. Determination of compensation for the loss or injury suffered by a consumer on account of deficiency in service:

In the matter of: Charan Singh V/s Healing Touch Hospital & Ors, (2000) 7 SCC 668, it was held that:

"… While quantifying damages, Consumer Forums are required to make an attempt to serve the ends of justice so that compensation awarded, in an established case, which not only serves the purpose of recompensing the individual, but which also at the same time, aims to bring about a qualitative change in the attitude of the service provider. Indeed, calculation of damages depends on the facts and circumstances of each case. No hard and fast rule can be laid down for universal application. While awarding compensation, a Consumer Forum has to take into account all relevant factors and assess compensation on the basis of accepted legal principles, on moderation. It is for the Consumer Forum to grant compensation to the extent it finds it reasonable, fair and proper in the facts and circumstances of a given case according to the established judicial standards where the claimant is able to establish his charge."

Similarly, the Hon'ble NCDRC in the matter of: Air France V/s O.P. Srivastava & Ors, First Appeal No. 310/ 2008 (Date of Decision: 22.03.2018) observed that:

"… It is trite that in considering the quantification of compensation, a precise calculation is difficult, as no clear or straitjacketed principles can be designed for the said purpose. Hence, the exercise would invariably involve discretion and consideration of a plethora of variables, depending on the facts and circumstances of the case. Some broad factors that may be considered while scrutinizing claims for compensation/ damages include:

  • Background of the parties, both the injured and the negligent or defaulting party;
  • The degree of negligence or these [the] verity of the defaulting act that caused the injury to the complainants;
  • The degree of proximity or causation of defaulting acts resulting in the injury; and
  • Consideration of alternative modes of redressal of the Complainant's grievance like restitution, general and specific damages, other means of non- monetary compensation, etc.

Needless to add that the above parameters are only illustrative and not exhaustive."

  1. Replies to consumer complaints cannot be filed beyond 45 days:

In the matter of: New India Assurance Co. Ltd. V/s Hilli Multipurpose Cold Storage (P) Ltd., 2020 SCC Online SC 287, it was held that:

  1. The District Forum has no power to extend the time for filing the response to the consumer complaint beyond the period of 15 days in addition to 30 days as is envisaged under Section 13 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
  2. That the commencing point of limitation of 30 days under Section 13 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 would be from the date of receipt of the notice accompanied with the consumer complaint by the opposite party, and not mere receipt of the notice of the consumer complaint.

  1. Whether Consumer Forums have jurisdiction in cases concerning service rendered by statutory and/ or public authorities?

In the matter of: Lucknow Development Authority V/s M.K. Gupta, (1994) 1 SCC 243, it was held that:

"… 4. What is the meaning of the word 'service'? Does it extend to deficiency in the building of a house or flat? Can a complaint be filed under the Act against the statutory authority or a builder or contractor for any deficiency in respect of such property.

It is in three parts. The main part is followed by inclusive clause and ends by exclusionary clause. The main clause itself is very wide. It applies to any service made available to potential users. The words 'any' and 'potential' are significant. Both are of wide amplitude. The word 'any' dictionarily means 'one or some or all'. In Black's Law Dictionary it is explained thus, "word 'any' has a diversity of meaning and may be employed to indicate 'all' or 'every' as well as 'some' or 'one' and its meaning in a given statute depends upon the context and the subject-matter of the statute". The use of the word 'any' in the context it has been used in clause (o) indicates that it has been used in wider sense extending from one to all.

The legislative intention is thus clear to protect a consumer against services rendered even by statutory bodies. The test, therefore, is not if a person against whom complaint is made is a statutory body but whether the nature of the duty and function performed by it is service or even facility.

… 5. … Truly speaking it would be a service to the society if such bodies instead of claiming exclusion subject themselves to the Act and let their acts and omissions be scrutinized as public accountability is necessary for healthy growth of society.

… 6. … So any service except when it is free of charge or under a constraint of personal service is included in it [Section 2 (o) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986]. …"

That following the ratio in the matter of Lucknow Development Authority (Supra), the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India, recently, in the matter of: Punjab Urban Planning & Development Authority V/s Vidya Chetal, SLP (C) No. 4272/ 2015 (Date of Decision: 16.09.2019) observed that:

  1. Power of the consumer forum extends to redressing any injustice rendered upon a consumer as well as over any mala fide, capricious or any oppressive act done by a statutory body.
  2. Consumer forums have jurisdiction to protect consumers against defective services rendered even by a statutory body.[1]
  3. Sovereign functions like judicial decision making, imposition of tax, policing etc., strictly understood, qualify for exemption from the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, but the welfare activities through economic adventures undertaken by the Government or statutory bodies are covered under the jurisdiction of the consumer forums. Even in departments discharging sovereign functions, if there are sub-units/ wings which are providing services/ supply goods for a consideration and they are severable, then they can be considered to come within the ambit of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.[2]
  4. If the statutory authority, other than the core sovereign duties, is providing service, which is encompassed under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, then, unless any statute exempts, or provides for immunity, for deficiency in service, or specifically provides for an alternative forum, the Consumer Forums would continue to have the jurisdiction to deal with the same.
  5. There is distinction between statutory liability which arise generally such as a tax, and those that may arise out of a specific relationship such as that between a service provider and a consumer. A tax is a mandatory imposition by a public authority for public purpose enforceable by law; and is not imposed with respect to any special benefit conferred, as consideration, on the tax payer. There is no element of quid pro quo between the tax payer and the public authority.
  6. Exactions, like tax, and cess, levied as a part of common burden or for a specific purpose, generally may not be amenable to the jurisdiction of the consumer forum. However, those statutory fees, levied in lieu of service provided, may in the usual course be subject matter of consumer forum's jurisdiction provided that there is a deficiency in service.
  7. The law is that the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 has a wide reach and the consumer forums have jurisdiction even in cases of service rendered by statutory and public authorities. Such authorities become liable to compensate for misfeasance in public office, that is, an act which is oppressive or capricious or arbitrary or negligent provided loss or injury is suffered by a citizen.

  1. For the purpose of computing the pecuniary jurisdiction, the consumer forum has to take into account the value of the goods bought or services hired or availed plus compensation claimed by the complainant:

That in the matter of: Ambrish Kumar Shukla & Ors V/s Ferrous Infrastructure (P) Ltd, CC No. 97/ 2016, NCDRC (Date of Decision: 07.10.2016) it was held as follows:

"… It is evident from a bare perusal of Sections 21, 17 and 11 of the Consumer Protection Act that it's the value of the goods or services and the compensation, if any, claimed which determines the pecuniary jurisdiction of the Consumer Forum. The Act does not envisage determination of the pecuniary jurisdiction based upon the cost of removing the deficiencies in the goods purchased or the services to be rendered to the consumer. Therefore, the cost of removing the defects or deficiencies in the goods or the services would have no bearing on the determination of the pecuniary jurisdiction. If the aggregate of the value of the goods purchased or the services hired or availed of by a consumer, when added to the compensation, if any, claimed in the complaint by him, exceeds Rs. 1.00 crore, it is this Commission [NCDRC] alone which would have the pecuniary jurisdiction to entertain the complaint. For instance, if a person purchases a machine for more than Rs. 1.00 crore, a manufacturing defect is found in the machine and the cost of removing the said defect is Rs. 10.00 lacs, it is the aggregate of the sale consideration paid by the consumer for the machine and compensation, if any, claimed in the complaint which would determine the pecuniary jurisdiction of the Consumer Forum. Similarly, if for instance, a house is sold for more than Rs. 1.00 crore, certain defects are found in the house, and the cost of removing those defects is Rs. 5.00 lacs, the complaint would have to be filed before this Commission [NCDRC], the value of the services itself being more than Rs. 1.00 crore."

  1. Territorial Jurisdiction & Exclusive Jurisdiction Clause:

In the matter of: Munish Sahgal V/s DLF Home Developers Ltd., First Appeal No. 425/ 2010, NCDRC (Date of Decision: 09.02.2011), it was held that:

  1. An exclusive jurisdiction clause in an agreement conferring territorial jurisdiction exclusively to the courts of a particular State/ territory, cannot override the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
  2. Any stipulation of an agreement which ousts the jurisdiction of District Forum from a place where the opposite party/ service provider has a branch office and the cause of action had also arisen, cannot be held to be a valid and/ or binding stipulation regard being had to the mandate contained in the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
  3. It need not be reiterated that it would defeat the very purpose and object of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, if the provisions of an agreement between a consumer and a service provider alone were to determine the jurisdiction of the Consumer Forum.
  4. District Forum is not a "court" within the meaning of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.

Moreover, in the matter of: M/s. Sonic Surgical V/s National Insurance Co. Ltd., (2010) 1 SCC 135, while observing that "cause of action" determines the territorial jurisdiction as regards the place where consumer complaint is to be filed or preferred, to avoid the malice of "bench hunting", it was held that:

"… Learned counsel for the appellant submitted that the respondent-insurance company has a branch office at Chandigarh and hence under the amended Section 17(2) the complaint could have been filed in Chandigarh. We regret, we cannot agree with the learned counsel for the appellant. In our opinion, an interpretation has to be given to the amended Section 17(2) (b) of the Act, which does not lead to an absurd consequence. If the contention of the learned counsel for the appellant is accepted, it will mean that even if a cause of action has arisen in Ambala, then too the complainant can file a claim petition even in Tamil Nadu or Gauhati or anywhere in India where a branch office of the insurance company is situated. We cannot agree with this contention. It will lead to absurd consequences and lead to bench hunting. In our opinion, the expression 'branch office' in the amended Section 17(2)would mean the branch office where the cause of action has arisen. No doubt this would be departing from the plain and literal words of Section 17(2)(b) of the Act but such departure is sometimes necessary (as it is in this case) to avoid absurdity. [vide G.P. Singh's Principles of Statutory Interpretation, Ninth Edition, 2004 P. 79] In the present case, since the cause of action arose at Ambala, the State Consumer Redressal Commission, Haryana alone will have jurisdiction to entertain the complaint."

  1. Arbitration Clause in an agreement cannot oust the jurisdiction of the Consumer Forum:

Recently, in the matter of: M/s. Emaar MGF Land Ltd V/s Aftab Singh, Review Petition (C) No. 2629-2630/ 2018 in Civil Appeal No. 23512- 23513/ 2017, Supreme Court of India (Date of Decision: 10.12.2018), it was held that:

  1. Generally, and traditionally all disputes relating to rights in personam are considered to be amenable to arbitration; and all disputes relating to rights in rem are required to be adjudicated by courts and public tribunals, being unsuited for private arbitration. This is not however a rigid or inflexible rule. Disputes relating to subordinate rights in personam arising from rights in rem have always been considered to be arbitrable.
  2. In the matter of: Skypak Couriers Ltd V/s Tata Chemicals, (2000) 5 SCC 294, it was observed that:

"Even if there exists an arbitration clause in an agreement and a complaint is made by the consumer, in relation to a certain deficiency of service, then the existence of an arbitration clause will not be a bar to the entertainment of the complaint by the Redressal Agency, constituted under the Consumer Protection Act, since the remedy provided under the Act is in addition to the provisions of any other law for the time being in force."

Ratio in the matter of Skypak Couriers Ltd (Supra) was upheld in the matter of M/s. Emaar MGF Land Ltd (Supra).

  1. In Para 25, in the matter of M/s. Emaar MGF Land Ltd (Supra), it was observed that:

"… 25. This Court in the series of judgments as noticed above considered the provisions of Consumer Protection Act, 1986 as well as Arbitration Act, 1996 and laid down that complaint under Consumer Protection Act being a special remedy, despite there being an arbitration agreement the proceedings before Consumer Forum have to go on and no error committed by Consumer Forum on rejecting the application [under Section 8 of the A&C Act]. There is reason for not interjecting proceedings under Consumer Protection Act on the strength [of] an arbitration agreement by Act, 1996. The remedy under Consumer Protection Act is a remedy provided to a consumer when there is a defect in any goods or services. The complaint means any allegation in writing made by a complainant has also been explained in Section 2(c) [Section 2 (1) (c)] of the Act. The remedy under the Consumer Protection Act is confined to complaint by consumer as defined under the Act for defect or deficiencies caused by a service provider, the cheap and a quick remedy has been provided to the consumer which is the object and purpose of the Act as noticed above."

  1. The complaints filed under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 can be proceeded with despite there being any arbitration agreement between the parties.

  1. Jurisdiction of consumer forum is not ousted on account of civil suit having been preferred by the service provider even if the subject matter is the same agreement on which later the consumer pitches his consumer complaint:

In the matter of: Yashwant Rama Jadhav V/s Shaukat Hussain Shaikh & Anr, First Appeal No. 1229/ 2017, NCDRC (Date of Decision: 10.11.2017), it was held that:

  1. Section 3 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, to the extent it is relevant provides that the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 shall be in addition and not in derogation of the provisions of any other law for the time being in force.
  2. The remedy available under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is an additional remedy, which Parliament has made available to a consumer. Even if two remedies, one before the Civil Court and the other before the Consumer Forum are available, it is for the litigant to decide as to which remedy the litigant wants to avail.
  3. The jurisdiction of the consumer forum is not ousted on account of a civil suit having been instituted by the service provider, even if the subject matter of the said civil suit preferred by the service provider is the same agreement which is the foundation of the consumer complaint.

  1. Consumer forums do not have jurisdiction over educational institutions:

In the matter of: Manu Solanki & Ors V/s Vinayaka Mission University, Consumer Case No. 261/ 2012, NCDRC (Date of Decision: 20.01.2020), it was held that:

  1. Students are not "consumers", education is not a "commodity", and education institutions are not "service providers".
  2. Even if an institution imparting education does not have a proper affiliation in imparting education, it is not rendering any service and, therefore, will be out of the purview of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
  3. There may be instances where there may be defect/ deficiency of service in pre-admission stages by an educational institution but as educational institutions are not rendering any service by imparting education, such instances cannot give any right to a person to approach consumer fora under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
  4. In Para 42 of the report, it was observed that:

"… Another relevant issue which was raised during the course of arguments was with respect to any defect or deficiency in the transportation which is provided by the schools/ colleges. School buses are vehicles hired by the Institutions and in most schools is made compulsory with, the prescribed fees including the cost of transportation. Children come in their own vehicles also and we are of the view that any defect or deficiency in transporting the children to the school does fall within the definition of 'imparting knowledge' and, therefore, the Consumer Fora has no jurisdiction to entertain such Complaints arising out of these issues."

  1. Coaching classes do not fall within the ambit of definition of "education" as defined by the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India in the matter of: P.A. Inamdar & Ors V/s State of Maharashtra & Ors, (2005) 6 SCC 537.
  2. Coaching Centres cannot be equated to regular schools or colleges which are regulated by a Regulatory Authority and also confer a Degree/ Diploma on the student who has passed in the examinations conducted as per the rules and norms specified in a particular statute and also by the concerned Universities. Coaching Centres do not fall within the definition of "educational institutions".
  3. Any defect or deficiency or unfair trade practice pertaining to a service provider like "Coaching Centres" fall within the jurisdiction of the consumer forums.
  4. Institutions rendering education including vocational courses and activities undertaken during the process of pre-admission as well as post-admission and also imparting excursion tours, picnics, extra co-curricular activities, swimming, sport, etc. except coaching institutions, are not covered under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

  1. What is "Commercial Purpose" is a question of fact to be decided in the facts of each case:
  1. The words "commercial purpose" have not been defined under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
  2. A person who buys a typewriter or a car and uses them for his personal use is certainly a consumer but a person who buys a typewriter or a car for typing others' work for consideration or for plying the car as a taxi can be said to be using the typewriter/car for a commercial purpose. If the commercial use is by the purchaser himself for the purpose of earning his livelihood by means of self- employment, such purchaser of goods is yet a 'consumer'. Therefore, if the purchaser himself works on typewriter or plies the car as a taxi himself, he does not cease to be a consumer. In other words, if the buyer of goods uses them himself, i.e., by self- employment, for earning his livelihood, it would not be treated as a "commercial purpose" and he does not cease to be a consumer for the purposes of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
  3. In the matter of: Sunil Kohli & Anr V/s M/s. Purearth Infrastructure Ltd., Civil Appeal No. 9004- 9005/ 2018, Supreme Court of India (Date of Decision: 01.10.2019), it was held that:

"… As laid down by this Court in Laxmi Engineering Works, the explanation to Section 2(1)(d) of the Act clarifies that "in certain situations, purchase of goods for "commercial purpose" would not yet take the purchaser out of the definition of expression 'consumer'. If the commercial use is by the purchaser himself for the purpose of earning his livelihood by means of self- employment, such purchaser of goods is yet a 'consumer'". This Court went on to observe that what is "Commercial Purpose" is a question of fact to be decided in the facts of each case."

  1. Whether a complaint can be filed by a "Trust" under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986?

In the matter of: Pratibha Pratisthan & Ors. V/s Manager, Canara Bank & Ors., Civil Appeal No. 3560/ 2008, Supreme Court of India (Date of Decision: 07.03.2017), it was held that:

  1. A reading of the definition of the words 'complaint', 'complainant' and 'consumer' under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 makes it clear that a "Trust" cannot invoke the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 in respect of any allegations on the basis of which a complaint could be made.
  2. To put this beyond any doubt, the word 'person' has also been defined under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 by virtue of Section 2 (1) (m), which defines a person as to include: a firm whether registered or not; a Hindu undivided family; a co-operative society; and/ or, every other association of persons whether registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 or not.
  3. Therefore, "Trust" does not qualify as "Person" under Section 2 (1) (m) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, and as a necessary sequitur, it does not qualify as "Consumer" under Section 2 (1) (d) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

  1. Homebuyers can approach Consumer Forum, RERA and NCLT simultaneously for redressal of their grievances:

In the matter of: Pioneer Urban Land and Infrastructure Ltd & Anr V/s Union of India & Ors, 2019 SCC Online SC 1005, it was held that:

  1. Remedies available to allottees of flat/ apartments are concurrent, and such allottees are in a position to avail of remedies under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, the Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Act, 2016, as well as trigger the provisions of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016.
  2. The remedy under the Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Act, 2016 by virtue of Section 71 (1), is not intended to be exclusive, but rather parallel to other remedies available before the Consumer Forum and the NCLT.

  1. Issue concerning "manufacturing defect" in a machinery used for commercial purpose falls within the jurisdiction of Consumer Forum, if the warranty period qua the machinery is still to lapse:

The Hon'ble NCDRC in the matter of: East India Construction Co. V/s Modern Consultancy Services, (2006) CPJ 289 (NC), observed as follows:

"… That the first issue has been answered by the Commission in the catena of judgments wherein it has been held that even though the machine/ equipment is used for commercial/ industrial purposes if any manufacturing defect occurs during the warranty period then, the issue is covered under the Act [The Consumer Protection Act, 1986] and for that purpose purchaser of the equipment is entitled to file a complaint under the Act…"

  1. Deficiency in service has to be distinguished from the tortious acts of the service provider:

In the matter of: Ravneet Singh Bagga V/s KLM Royal Dutch Airlines & Anr, (2000) 1 SCC 66, it was held that:

"… The deficiency in service cannot be alleged without attributing fault, imperfection, shortcoming or inadequacy in the quality, nature and manner of performance which is required to be performed by a person in pursuance of a contract or otherwise in relation to any service. The burden of proving the deficiency in service is upon the person who alleges it. The complainant has on facts, been found to have not established any wilful fault, imperfection, shortcoming or inadequacy in the service of the respondent. The deficiency in service has to be distinguished from the tortious acts of the respondent. In the absence of deficiency in service the aggrieved person may have a remedy under the common law to file a suit for damages but cannot insist for grant of relief under the Act for the alleged acts of commission and omission attributable to the respondent which otherwise do not amount to deficiency in service. In case of bona fide disputes no wilful fault, imperfection, shortcoming or inadequacy in the quality, nature and manner of performance in the service can be informed (sic). If on facts it is found that the person or authority rendering service had taken all precautions and considered all relevant facts and circumstances in the course of the transaction and that their action or the final decision was in good faith, it cannot be said that there had been any deficiency in service. If the action of the respondent is found to be in good faith, there is no deficiency of service entitling the aggrieved person to claim relief under the Act. The rendering of deficient service has to be considered and decided in each case according to the facts of that case for which no hard and fast rule can be laid down. Inefficiency, lack of due care, absence of bona fides, rashness, haste or omission and the like may be the factors to ascertain the deficiency in rendering the service." (emphasis supplied)

  1. Consumer Forums are obliged to give reasoned orders:

In the matter of: M/s. Kranti Associates (P) Ltd & Anr V/s Sh. Masood Ahmed Khan & Ors, (2010) 9 SCC 496, it was held that:

  1. An authority in making an order in exercise of its quasi-judicial function, must record reasons in support of the order it makes.
  2. The rule requiring reasons in support of a quasi- judicial order is as basic as following the principles of natural justice. And this rule needs to be observed in its proper spirit.
  3. In India, the judicial trend has always been to record reasons, even in administrative decisions, if such decisions affect anyone prejudicially.
  4. A quasi-judicial authority must record reasons in support of its conclusions.
  5. Insistence on recording of reasons is meant to serve the wider principle of justice that justice must not only be done it must also appear to be done as well.
  6. Recording of reasons also operates as a valid restraint on any possible arbitrary exercise of judicial and quasi-judicial or even administrative power.
  7. Reasons reassure that discretion has been exercised by the decision maker on relevant grounds and by disregarding extraneous considerations.
  8. Reasons have virtually become as indispensable a component of a decision making process as observing principles of natural justice by judicial, quasi-judicial and even by administrative bodies.
  9. The ongoing judicial trend in all countries committed to rule of law and constitutional governance is in favour of reasoned decisions based on relevant facts. This is virtually the life blood of judicial decision making justifying the principle that reason is the soul of justice.
  10. Judicial or even quasi-judicial opinions these days can be as different as the judges and authorities who deliver them. All these decisions serve one common purpose which is to demonstrate by reason that the relevant factors have been objectively considered. This is important for sustaining the litigants' faith in the justice delivery system.
  11. Insistence on reason is a requirement for both judicial accountability and transparency.
  12. If a Judge or a quasi-judicial authority is not candid enough about his/her decision making process then it is impossible to know whether the person deciding is faithful to the doctrine of precedent or to principles of incrementalism.
  13. Reasons in support of decisions must be cogent, clear and succinct. A pretence of reasons or 'rubber-stamp reasons' is not to be equated with a valid decision making process.
  14. It cannot be doubted that transparency is the sine qua non, of restraint on abuse of judicial powers. Transparency in decision making not only makes the judges and decision makers less prone to errors but also makes them subject to broader scrutiny.
  15. In all common law jurisdictions judgments play a vital role in setting up precedents for the future. Therefore, for development of law, requirement of giving reasons for the decision is of the essence and is virtually a part of "Due Process".

  1. Provision of Order I, Rule 8 of the CPC is applicable to consumer complaints filed under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986:

In the matter of: Anjum Hussain V/s Intellicity Business Park (P) Ltd., Civil Appeal No. 1676/ 2019 (Date of Decision: 10.05.2019), the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India, upheld the observations made in the matter of: Ambrish Kumar Shukla & Ors (Supra), where by it was observed that:

"… The primary object behind permitting a class action such as a complaint under Section 12 (1) (c) of the Consumer Protection Act being to facilitate the decision of a consumer dispute in which a large number of consumers are interested, without recourse to each of them filing an individual complaint, it is necessary that such a complaint is filed on behalf of or for the benefit of all the persons having such a community of interest. A complaint on behalf of only some of them therefore will not be maintainable. If for instance, 100 flat buyers/plot buyers in a project have a common grievance against the Builder/Developer and a complaint under Section 12(1)(c) of the Consumer Protection Act is filed on behalf of or for the benefit of say 10 of them, the primary purpose behind permitting a class action will not be achieved, since the remaining 90 aggrieved persons will be compelled either to file individual complaints or to file complaints on behalf of or for the benefit of the different group of purchasers in the same project. This, in our view, could not have been the Legislative intent. The term 'persons so interested' and 'persons having the same interest' used in Section 12 (1) (c) mean, the persons having a common grievance against the same service provider. The use of the words 'all consumers so interested' and "on behalf of or for the benefit of all consumers so interested", in Section 12(1) (c) leaves no doubt that such a complaint must necessarily be filed on behalf of or for the benefit of all the persons having a common grievance, seeking a common relief and consequently having a community of interest against the same service provider." (emphasis supplied)

That in the matter of Anjum Hussain (Supra) it was categorically observed that:

  1. On plain language of Order I, Rule 8 of the CPC, the principal requirement to bring a suit within that rule is the sameness of interest of the numerous persons on whose behalf or for whose benefit the suit is instituted.
  2. The object for which this provision (Order I, Rule 8 of the CPC) is enacted is really to facilitate the decision of questions, in which a large number of persons are interested, without recourse to the ordinary procedure.
  3. The persons who may be represented in a suit under Order I, Rule 8 CPC need not have the same cause of action and all that is required is sameness of interest. The same principle is applicable in respect of class actions brought under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
  4. The primary object behind permitting a class action such as a complaint under Section 12 (1) (c) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 being to facilitate the decision of a consumer dispute in which a large number of consumers are interested, without recourse to each of them filing an individual complaint, it is necessary that such a complaint is filed on behalf of or for the benefit of all the persons having such a community of interest.
Views are personal only.

[1] Ghaziabad Development Authority V/s Balbir Singh, (2004) 5 SCC 65

[2] Standard Chartered Bank Ltd. V/s Dr. B.N. Raman, (2006) 5 SCC 727

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