The Supreme Court has referred to larger bench the issue whether a 'trust' is a 'consumer' under Consumer Protection Act so as to file complaints before the Consumer Forums?
The bench comprising Justice Uday Umesh Lalit and Justice Aniruddha Bose doubted the ratio in Pratibha Pratisthan v. Manager, Canara Bank, in which it was held that a trust is not a person and therefore not a consumer and consequently, it cannot be a complainant and cannot file a consumer dispute under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act.
The bench was considering an appeal titled Administrator Smt. Tara Bai Desai Charitable Ophthalmic Trust Hospital, Jodhpur vs. Managing Director Supreme Elevators India Pvt. Ltd, in which the issue to be decided was whether a Charitable Trust could maintain an action under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act and claim compensation under the Act.
Referred to expressions "complainant", "consumer", and "person" in the Consumer Protection Act, the bench observed that the case of a "trust" may also come within the purview of the definition of "person" under the Act. It noted that the definition of "person" in terms of Section 2(1)(m) of the Act is also an inclusive definition as it includes "every other association of persons whether registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 (21 of 1860) or not".
Referring the issue to larger bench, the bench opined:
"Moreover, the legislative intent appears to have a wider coverage and therefore the concerned provision includes number of categories under the definition of "person" so much so that even an unregistered firm which otherwise has certain disabilities in law, is also entitled to maintain an action. In the circumstances, we find it difficult to accept that a "trust" would not come within the definition of a "consumer"."
Pratibha Pratisthan v. Manager, Canara Bank
In a brief 'non-reportable' judgment, the bench comprising of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Prafulla C. Pant had upheld the National Consumer Commission view that the complaint filed by a Trust was not maintainable. It was observed thus:
"On a plain and simple reading of all the above provisions of the Act it is clear that a Trust is not a person and therefore not a consumer. Consequently, it cannot be a complainant and cannot file a consumer dispute under the provisions of the Act.
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