The Uttar Pradesh State Consumer Disputes Commission by a recent judgment in the case of Balrampur Nursing Home vs. Shri Dhokhai while allowing a revision petition has held that as per the provisions contained in S. 69 of the Consumer Protection Act 2019, it is imperative for the District Consumer Forums to decide the Applications for Condonation of Delay as a preliminary issue before proceeding to decide the complaint on merits.
Briefly, the facts of the case are that the complainant filed complaint under Section 35 of the Consumers Protection Act, alleging that the opposite party had committed gross negligence in the treatment of the complainant. This complaint was filed along with the delay condonation application as the complaint was barred by limitation. The opposite parties appeared before the District Consumers Commission and filed objection against the delay condonation application and prayed for the disposal of the application at the stage of admission itself. Thereafter, on 7th Feb 2022, the District Consumers Commission heard the case on the point of limitation. No one appeared on behalf of the opposite parties and thus, the Commission passed its order.
Against this order, the opposite parties approached the court in revision with the prayer that the order passed must be set aside and a direction must be issued to the District Consumers Commission to decide the issue of limitation first as the complaint had been filed beyond the limitation prescribed under the Consumers Protection Act.
The counsel for revisionist stated that the District Consumers Commission had arbitrarily not considered the preliminary objection of the revisionist of the complaint petition being grossly time-barred and leaving the matter to be decided at the final stage. Thus, the impugned order was against the settled mandate of law as per the revisionists. It was further submitted that the Commission had acted without jurisdiction and with material irregularities while rejecting the revisionists' preliminary objection for dismissal of the complaint petition as being barred by time. The counsel submitted that the order passed by the commission was in violation of the provisions of Section 69 of the Consumers Protection Act. He stated that the complainant had filed this complaint after nine years of the incident. Reliance was placed upon the Supreme Court judgements of State Bank of India v. M/S P.S. Agricultural Industries (2009 5 SCC 121), Haryana Urban Development Authority v. B.K. Sood (2006 1 SCC 164) and V. N. Shrikhande v. Anita Sena Fernandes (2011 (1) SCC 53).
The Hon'ble Commission agreed with the submission of the revisionist that the language of S. 69 of the Consumer Protection Act 2019, in as much as it states that the Consumer Commissions "shall not admit a complaint unless it is filed within 2 years from the date on which the cause of action has arisen" is pre-emptory in nature and therefore the question of limitation has to be adjudicated as a preliminary issue and the Consumer Courts have to record their reasons for condoning such delay before proceeding to decide the complaint itself on merits.
On basis of the above the Hon'ble State Commission held -
"I find that the submission of learned Counsel for the revisionists is correct as in the instant case the complaint has been filed beyond the period of two years from the date on which the cause ofaction has arisen. The complaint is admittedly filed after a gap of nine years, therefore, it is the duty of the District Consumer Commission to consider the delay condonation application first and decide the same before proceeding to decide the complaint itself on merits."
The revision petition was accordingly allowed and the matter was remanded back to the concerned District Forum with the direction to decide the application for condonation of delay before proceeding on merits.
Case Title : Balrampur Nursing Home vs. Shri Dhokhai