In a significant order, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) has held that for determining the pecuniary jurisdiction of Consumer fora, the value of the goods/ services "paid" as consideration alone has to be taken and not the value of the goods/ services "purchased".
The order has been passed by a bench of Justice RK Agrawal (President) and Dr. SM Kantikar (Member) while hearing a consumer complaint filed on behalf of a Kolkata based factory against its insurer, National Insurance Company Ltd.
The Complainant stated that the company had wrongly repudiated his insurance claim worth Rs. Rs.28,00,20,000/- which was purchased by paying a premium of Rs.4,43,562/-.
At this juncture, the Commission stated that the value of the consideration paid in the present case was "less" than Rs.10,00,00,000/- (pecuniary jurisdiction of NCDRC as per Section 58(1)(a)(i) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019) and it had to determine whether the complaint shall be maintainable before it.
It observed that had the case been governed under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, NCDRC would have jurisdiction in the matter since pecuniary jurisdiction thereunder was determined by taking the "value of the goods or services and compensation". Meaning thereby that the value of the goods or services as also the compensation would be added to arrive at a conclusion as to whether the National Commission has the jurisdiction or not
Under Section 21(a)(i) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, the National Commission had the jurisdiction to entertain Complaints where the value of the good or services and compensation claimed exceeded Rs.1,00,00,000/-.
Under the new law however, the National Commission has jurisdiction to entertain Complaints where the "value of the goods or services paid" as consideration exceeds Rs.10,00,00,000/-.
This change, the Commission said, was intended to ensure that Consumers approach the "appropriate" Consumer fora.
It illustrated that under the erstwhile Act of 1986, if a person agreed to purchase a property for Rs. 60,00,000/- and later he approached the Consumer Forum seeking refund along with compensation of Rs. 50,00,000/- then the value would exceed Rs.1,00,00,000/- and the Consumer Complaint was filed before the National Commission.
The Commission said that the words "and compensation" were replaced with the word "paid" certainly to prevent consumers from directly approaching the National Commission.
"It appears that the Parliament, while enacting the Act of 2019 was conscious of this fact and to ensure that Consumer should approach the appropriate Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission whether it is District, State or National only the value of the consideration paid should be taken into consideration while determining the pecuniary jurisdiction and not value of the goods or services and compensation, and that is why a specific provision has been made in Sections 34 (1), 47 (1) (a) (i) and 58 (1) (a) (i) providing for the pecuniary jurisdiction of the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission and the National Commission respectively," it held.
Case Title: M/S. Pyaridevi Chabiraj Steels Pvt. Ltd. v. National Insurance Company Ltd. & Ors.
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