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Consumer Fora Has No Power To Accept Written Statement Beyond Period Of 45 Days, Reiterates Supreme Court

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
11 Feb 2021 3:01 PM GMT
Consumer Fora Has No Power To Accept Written Statement Beyond Period Of 45 Days, Reiterates Supreme Court
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Consumer fora has no jurisdiction and/or power to accept the written statement beyond the period of 45 days, the Supreme Court reiterated in a judgment delivered on Thursday.In this case, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, confirmed the order passed by the Karnataka State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission rejecting an application seeking condonation of delay in...

Consumer fora has no jurisdiction and/or power to accept the written statement beyond the period of 45 days, the Supreme Court reiterated in a judgment delivered on Thursday.

In this case, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, confirmed the order passed by the Karnataka State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission rejecting an application  seeking condonation of delay in filing the written version/written statement to the consumer complaint. The rejection was on the ground that the written version/written statement was filed beyond the prescribed period of limitation provided under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

In appeal, the contention raised was that, in the present case the application for condition of delay came up for consideration before the State Commission on 26.09.2018. The appellant further submitted that in the judgment of the Constitution Bench in New India Assurance Company Limited v. Hilli Multipurpose Cold Storage Pvt. Ltd. (2020) 5 SCC 757, it is observed that the said judgment shall be applicable prospectively. Therefore the said decision shall not be applicable to the complaint which was filed prior to the said judgment and/or the said decision shall not be applicable to the application for condonation of delay filed before the said decision, it was contended.

Rejecting this contention, the bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah observed thus: 

It is required to be noted that as per the decision of this Court in the case of J.J. Merchant v. Shrinath Chaturvedi, reported in (2002) 6 SCC 635, which was a three Judge Bench decision, consumer fora has no power to extend the time for filing a reply/written statement beyond the period prescribed under the Act. However, thereafter, despite the above three Judge Bench decision, a contrary view was taken by a two Judge Bench and therefore the matter was referred to the five Judge Bench and the Constitution Bench has reiterated the view taken in the case of J.J.Merchant (supra) and has again reiterated that the consumer fora has no power and/or jurisdiction to accept the written statement beyond the statutory period prescribed under the Act, i.e., 45 days in all. However, it was found that in view of the order passed by this Court in Reliance General Insurance Co. Ltd. (supra) dated 10.02.2017, pending the decision of the larger 5 Bench, in some of the cases, the State Commission might have condoned the delay in filing the written statement filed beyond the stipulated time of 45 days and all those orders condoning the delay and accepting the written statements shall not be affected, this Court observed in paragraph 63 that the decision of the Constitution Bench shall be applicable prospectively. We say so because one of us was a party to the said decision of the Constitution Bench.

Another contention was that the judgment in Reliance General Insurance Co. Ltd. v. M/s Mampee Timbers & Hardwares Pvt. Ltd. had directed the consumer fora to accept the written statement beyond the stipulated time of 45 days in an appropriate cases. The court agreed with the view of the National Commission that  there was no mandate in the said judgment  that in all the cases where the written statement was submitted beyond the stipulated period of 45 days, the delay must be condoned and the written statement must be taken on record. Dismissing the appeal, the bench observed:

In any case, in view of the earlier decision of this Court in the case of J.J. Merchant (supra) and the subsequent authoritative decision of the Constitution Bench of this Court in the case of New India Assurance Company Limited v. Hilli Multipurpose Cold Storage Pvt. Ltd. (2020) 5 SCC 757, consumer fora has no jurisdiction and/or power to accept the written statement beyond the period of 45 days, we see no reason to interfere with the impugned order passed by the learned National Commission.
CASE: Daddy's Builders Pvt. Ltd. vs. Manisha Bhargava [SLP (Civil) No. 1240 of 2021]
CORAM: Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah
COUNSEL: Adv Ashish Choudhary,  AOR Rohit Amit Sthalekar  
CITATION: LL 2021 SC 78


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