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[Breaking] Consumer Forum Has No Power To Extend Time Beyond 45 Days For Opposite Party's Version : SC Constitution Bench [Read Judgment]

4 March 2020 5:13 AM GMT
[Breaking] Consumer Forum Has No Power To Extend Time Beyond 45 Days For Opposite Party
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The Supreme Court on Wednesday held that the time period for filing opposite party's version in Consumer case cannot be extended beyond the period of 45 days prescribed under the Consumer Protection Act.

The Court held that Consumer Protection Act 1986 did not empower the Consumer Forum to extend the time beyond the period of 45 days. The time period prescribed under Section 13 of the Consumer Protection Act is mandatory, and not directory, held the judgment authored by Justice Vineet Saran for the bench.

Answering the second question the Bench held that the timeline will start from the time that notice along with complaint is received and not just notice

A 5-judge bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, M.R. Shah and S. Ravindra Bhat had reserved orders in the case on January 29.

The issue stems from the case of New India Assurance Co. Ltd. v. Hilli Multipurpose Cold Storage Pvt. Ltd. [(2015) 16 SCC 472] wherein the question that arose was, whether the matter was governed by law laid down in Dr. J.J. Merchant & Ords v. Shrinath Chaturvedi [(2002) 6 SCC 365] or Kailash v. Nankhu & Ors. [(2005) 4 SCC 480]. While the J.J. Merchant case stated that in no case could a period beyond 45 days could be granted, the Kailash case, pertaining to Election Law and Order VIII Rule 1 of Code of Civil Procedure, stated that such provisions are not mandatory, but directory in nature, and therefore, in the interest of justice, further time for filing reply could be granted on the basis of the circumstances.

As per Section 13(2)(a), when the District Forum receives a complaint under Section 12 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, a copy of the complaint is to be served upon the opposite party, and the opposite party has to provide his version of the case within a period of 30 days from the date of receipt of the copy of the complaint. Section 13(2)(a) governs the period of extension of 15 days that the District Forum may grant to the opposite party. The same is the time period for filing version in State Commission and National Commission as well.

The Petitioners in the instant argued that not granting extension would be antithetical to the principle of audi alteram partem ('let the other side be heard as well').

The respondents highlighted the legislative intent behind the absence of the "sufficient cause" in Section 13, which according to them indicated the mandatory nature of the provision. 

(Story to be updated after receiving judgment)

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