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Consumer Protection Act - Onus To Prove Deficiency In Service Is On The Complainant : Supreme Court

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
6 Oct 2021 1:33 PM GMT
Consumer Protection Act - Onus To Prove Deficiency In Service Is On The Complainant : Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court observed that, in a consumer case, the onus of proof that there was deficiency in service is on the complainant. Without any proof of deficiency, the opposite party cannot be held responsible for deficiency in service, Justices Hemant Gupta and V. Ramasubramanian observed.The complainant Dolphin International Ltd., engaged the respondent SGS India Ltd. for...

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The Supreme Court observed that, in a consumer case, the onus of proof that there was deficiency in service is on the complainant. 

Without any proof of deficiency, the opposite party cannot be held responsible for deficiency in service, Justices Hemant Gupta and V. Ramasubramanian observed.

The complainant Dolphin International Ltd., engaged the respondent SGS India Ltd. for providing services for inspection of groundnut procured by it for the purpose of exporting the same to Greece and Netherlands. Allowing the consumer complaint (that groundnut inspected by it did not meet the products specifications at the time of loading of consignment) filed by Dolphin, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, directed SGS India to pay a sum of Rs.65,74,000/- with interest @9% p.a. from the date of filing of complaint till realization. 

Taking note of the factual aspects in this case, the bench, allowing the appeal filed by SGS India, observed that in the absence of any clause in the contract to ensure that the goods consigned has to meet the products specifications at the time of loading of consignment, the appellant cannot be held liable for change in specifications of the agricultural produce at the destination port after being in transit for two months on the high seas.

The court observed thus:

19. The onus of proof of deficiency in service is on the complainant in the complaints under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. It is the complainant who had approached the Commission, therefore, without any proof of deficiency, the opposite party cannot be held responsible for deficiency in service.

In this regard, the bench referred to the decision in Ravneet Singh Bagga v. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (2000) 1 SCC 66 in which it was observed thus: The deficiency in service cannot be alleged without  attributing fault, imperfection, shortcoming or inadequacy in the quality, nature and manner of performance which is required to be performed by a person in pursuance of a contract or otherwise in relation to any service. The burden of proving the deficiency in service is upon the person who alleges it. The complainant has, on facts, been found to have not established any wilful fault, imperfection, shortcoming or inadequacy in the service of the respondent 

The court also noted that in Indigo Airlines v. Kalpana Rani Debbarma (2020) 9 SCC 424, it was held the the initial onus to substantiate the factum of deficiency in service committed by the opposite party was primarily on the complaint.

Allowing the appeal filed by SGS India, the bench observed that the complainant failed to prove that the result of the sample retained by the appellant at the time of consignment was materially different than what was certified by the appellant. It said:

22. The onus of proof that there was deficiency in service is on the complainant. If the complainant is able to discharge its initial onus, the burden would then shift to the respondent in the complaint. The rule of evidence before the civil proceedings is that the onus would lie on the person who would fail if no evidence is led by the other side. Therefore, the initial burden of proof of deficiency in service was on the complainant, but having failed to prove that the result of the sample retained by the appellant at the time of consignment was materially different than what was certified by the appellant, the burden of proof would not shift on the appellant. Thus, the Commission has erred in law to draw adverse inference against the appellant.


Case name and citation: SGS India vs. Dolphin International Ltd. LL 2021 SC 544

Case no. and Date: CA 5759 OF 2009 | 6 October 2021

Coram: Justices Hemant Gupta and V. Ramasubramanian

Counsel: Sr. Adv Gopal Sankaranarayanan for appellant, Sr. Adv Vijay Hansaria for respondent

Click here to Read/Download Judgment



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