The Supreme Court has reiterated that a government servant is not a 'consumer' for the purpose of Consumer Protection Act and cannot raise any dispute regarding his service conditions or for payment of gratuity or GPF or any of his retiral benefits before any of the forum under the Act.
The Ministry Of Water Resources had approached the Apex Court against the order of National Consumer Commission (NCDRC) which dismissed its revision petition against the order of the District Forum and State Commission granting relief to its employee whose claim for compensation and interest for the delayed payment of General Provident Fund dues was allowed. The National Commission had refused to condone delay in filing the revision petition.
The issue raised before the Court, in Ministry Of Water Resources vs. Shreepat Rao Kamde, was whether in respect of retiral dues, a complaint could be maintained before the District Consumer Forum?
The bench comprising Justice Uday Umesh Lalit and Justice Indu Malhotra noted that this issue is settled in Jagmittar Sain Bhagat v. Director, Health Services, Haryana (2013) 10 SCC 136. In the said judgment, the Court had held that a government servant cannot approach any of the forum under Consumer Protection Act for any of the retiral benefits. It was observed thus:
It is evident that by no stretch of imagination can a government servant raise any dispute regarding his service conditions or for payment of gratuity or GPF or any of his retiral benefits before any of the forum under the Act. The government servant does not fall under the definition of a "consumer" as defined under Section 2(1)(d)(ii) of the Act. Such government servant is entitled to claim his retiral benefits strictly in accordance with his service conditions and regulations or statutory rules framed for that purpose. The appropriate forum, for redressal of any of his grievance, may be the State Administrative Tribunal, if any, or the civil court but certainly not a forum under the Act.
The Court also noticed that in another judgment, in Secretary, Board of Secondary Education, Orissa vs. Santosh Kumar Sahoo, it was held the Consumer Protection Act was not intended to cover discharge of statutory function of examining whether a candidate was fit to be declared as having successfully completed a course by passing the examination.
While allowing the appeal, the bench observed:
On the point of entitlement of a Government servant in respect of dues as stated and whether such Government servant can maintain any action under the provisions of the Act, the law is thus well settled. The decision of this Court rendered in Jagmittar Sain Bhagat was holding the field when the matter was decided by the State Commission and the National Commission. A plea was squarely raised by the appellants about the inapplicability of the provisions of the Act. However, that plea was not gone into. In keeping with the principles laid down by this Court in the case of Jagmittar Sain Bhagat, we hold that the complaint in the present case was not maintainable before the District Forum under the provisions of the Act.
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