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Maximum permissible time limit for filing the written statement before District Consumer Forum.

The question before three-judge bench of Hon'ble Apex court was:

What is the position of law for the determination of the period of limitation for filing the written statement or giving a version of the opponent as per the provisions of Section 13(2)(a) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986?

The question revolves around period within which the opponent has to give his version to the District Forum in pursuance of a complaint, which is admitted under Section 12 of the Act.

Apex court (three-Judge Bench) settled down two conflicting views over the determination of the period of limitation for written statement in case of NEW INDIA ASSURANCE CO. LTD.  V. HILLI MULTIPURPOSE COLD STORAGE PVT. LTD.

Earlier Views

i. Dr. J.J. Merchant & Ors. v. Shrinath Chaturvedi, [(2002) 6 SCC 635]

The question arose in the case of Dr. J.J. Merchant (supra) whether the Forum can grant time beyond 45 days to the opposite party for filing its version. After considering the aforestated section in the light of the object with which the Act has been enacted, a three-Judge Bench of this Court came to the conclusion that in no case period beyond 45 days can be granted to the opposite party for filing its version of the case.

ii. Kailash v. Nanhku & Ors. [(2005) 4 SCC 480]

The issue involved in the this case was whether time limit of 90 days, as prescribed by the proviso to Rule 1 of Order 8 of the Civil Procedure Code, is mandatory or directory in nature.

After considering the provisions of Order VIII Rule 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 and several other judgments pertaining to grant of time or additional time for filing written statement or reply, in the interest of justice, this Court came to the conclusion that the provisions of Order VIII Rule 1 C.P.C. are not mandatory but directory in nature and therefore, in the interest of justice, further time for filing reply can be granted, if the circumstances are such that require grant of further time for filing the reply.

In the case of  NEW INDIA ASSURANCE CO. LTD.  V. HILLI MULTIPURPOSE COLD STORAGE PVT. LTD. Hon’ble apex court also considered the case of Topline Shoes Ltd. v. Corporation Bank [(2002) 6 SCC 33] where apex Court was faced with the same issue in the aforestated case. After discussing the provisions of Section 13(2) of the Act, this Court came to the conclusion that procedural rules should not be considered as mandatory in nature. In the said case, ultimately, this Court came to the conclusion that provision contained in Section 13(2)(a) of the Act is procedural in nature.

Upon hearing the concerned counsel and upon perusal of the judgments referred to hereinabove, which pertain to extension of time for the purpose of filing written statement, apex court was of the opinion that view expressed by the three-Judge Bench of this Court in Dr. J.J. Merchant (supra) should prevail.

Hon’ble apex court also considered the principle laid down in the case of Central Board of Dawoodi Bohra Community & Anr. v. State of Maharashtra & Anr. [(2005) 2 SCC 673],

Wherein a question had arisen whether the law laid down by a Bench of a larger strength is binding on a subsequent Bench of lesser or equal strength. After considering a number of judgments, a five-Judge Bench of this Court, finally opined as under :

“12. Having carefully considered the submissions made by the learned senior counsel for the parties and having examined the law laid down by the Constitution Benches in the abovesaid decisions, we would like to sum up the legal position in the following terms :-

(1) The law laid down by this Court in a decision delivered by a Bench of larger strength is binding on any subsequent Bench of lesser or co-equal strength.

(2) A Bench of lesser quorum cannot disagree or dissent from the view of the law taken by a Bench of larger quorum. In case of doubt all that the Bench of lesser quorum can do is to invite the attention of the Chief Justice and request for the matter being placed for hearing before a Bench of larger quorum than the Bench whose decision has come up for consideration. It will be open only for a Bench of coequal strength to express an opinion doubting the correctness of the view taken by the earlier Bench of coequal strength, whereupon the matter may be placed for hearing before a Bench consisting of a quorum larger than the one which pronounced the decision laying down the law the correctness of which is doubted.

(3) The above rules are subject to two exceptions : (i) The abovesaid rules do not bind the discretion of the Chief Justice in whom vests the power of framing the roster and who can direct any particular matter to be placed for hearing before any particular Bench of any strength; and

(ii) In spite of the rules laid down hereinabove, if the matter has already come up for hearing before a Bench of larger quorum and that Bench itself feels that the view of the law taken by a Bench of lesser quorum, which view is in doubt, needs correction or reconsideration then by way of exception (and not as a rule) and for reasons given by it, it may proceed to hear the case and examine the correctness of the previous decision in question dispensing with the need of a specific reference or the order of Chief Justice constituting the Bench and such listing. Such was the situation in Raghubir Singh and Hansoli Devi.”

Since the Dr. J.J. Merchant (supra) was decided in 2002, whereas Kailash (supra) was decided in 2005. As per law laid down by this Court, while deciding the case of Kailash (supra), this Court ought to have respected the view expressed in Dr. J.J. Merchant (supra) as the judgment delivered in the case of Dr. J.J. Merchant (supra) was earlier in point of time.

And the question involved is no more res integra judgment delivered in the case of Dr. J.J. Merchant (supra) holds the field and therefore, and apex court in the case of  NEW INDIA ASSURANCE CO. LTD.  V. HILLI MULTIPURPOSE COLD STORAGE PVT. LTD. reiterate the view that the District Forum can grant a further period of 15 days to the opposite party for filing his version or reply and not beyond that i.e. respondent can file his version within 45 days of service of complaint, not beyond that.


Respondent in consumer complaint case should always bear in mind that he needs to submit his version within 45 days max, from the date he receives copy of complaint.


Law laid down by Hon’ble apex court in NEW INDIA ASSURANCE CO. LTD.  V. HILLI MULTIPURPOSE COLD STORAGE PVT. LTD. dated 04.12.2015,  has been strictly followed by Hon’ble NATIONAL CONSUMER DISPUTES REDRESSAL COMMISSION  NEW DELHI in numerous cases where it have its specific finding that it is bound by the said decision of the Hon'ble Supreme Court dated 04.12.2015 and it is not possible to allow the filing of written submissions, even subject to cost etc. after the time permissible.


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My Nation "India" is rich and prosperous in the sense that it has all the sources viz. water, minerals, fertile land, different sects to give the fragrance of wisdom to enlighten the mind of humane and different environment and topography with six seasons owing Himalaya as crown which are sufficient to call and enable it prosperous Nation "Sone ki Chidia" golden bird. We have vast literature of Vedas and other religious pious legends containing therein the wisdom, prosperity and leadership. "Vishwa - Bandhutwa" International brotherhood is the conscience of India, "Satya -Ahinsa" is the thought of being humane, respect to woman is the sense of beauty and affection, "Shyama and Tyag" is the glory and "Karma" is the aliveness. Teaching for hate, avarice, and corruption is an alarm and preaches to lead a path of destruction and proceed on the same is the way to hell. But it is very painful and pathetic to say that a majority of the inhabitants not all of the country have become the slaves of materialism and have forgotten the richest heritage of the progenitors. That is the reason, day by day there is being devaluation of moral values causing multi dimensional injuries to the Nation. Who is responsible for these mishaps? I think hate, avarice, and corruption are the most relevant factors of the mishaps. A person (man or woman) who pursues material and cosmopolitan pleasure in real sense never enjoys the pleasure of life of being human. A human is not an accidental product of nature but is the creation of God with some ulterior motive for the welfare of human race and to enjoy it in real sense.


To kill others for own sake or create terror in the minds of others and absconding from ones duties is the worst and shameful act and leads to the path of destruction and pain which never gives pleasure. The population of India is more than a billion and a considerable portion of it is living with bread without pulse below the standard of normal life, on the other side representatives of such public are well equipped with the aristocratic pleasure. Political leaders/ representatives are not the ruler of the public but they simply are the democrats: It is the duty of the democrat to look into the social and economic problems of the public. Sixty years have been passed after independence but social and economical democracy could not be established yet in India. Per capita income of the Indians is too less than the other prosperous counties but our leaders want to enjoy the same facilities alike the other prosperous countries' leaders which cannot be sustained and justified until full hand bread and employment to the youth is made available. They have no right to enjoy more than a last hand without bread. Who shall think about them in order to give them a better life or normal human life? It is the duty of public welfare state/government which is constituted by the elected members/ representatives but it does not look possible in this county until the leaders are not careful to realize such bitterness of truth and ready to sacrifice their pleasures for the sake of public. It is noticeable that the paper democracy is being replaced by the aristocracy because only the "haves" class member has the access to be elected in the election and none of the leaders remain means less or normal as before when he comes out or rejected by the public after next election. Nexus between corrupt power and leadership rightly can be predicted to be most dangerous disease not curable but certain the demise of democracy. Price inflation is the hue and cry at present in this country but without solution. I suggest important keys for solution to cope against the price inflation problem and sensible democracy, that is, the pension of the public representatives should be stopped when they are rejected and not re-elected because the leader or representative is not retired but rejected and a person rejected has no moral right to get the benefit of pension alike the other public servants who contribute their services up to the age of retirement. Secondly, the leaders should not be given any money in lieu of their services but working facilities to carry out their parliamentary jobs pertaining to the public welfare only be extended to them, when they are serving the Nation. Leaders are supposed to live like a hermit and work as a horse. When this policy shall be adopted by the legislators then certainly a healthy and qualified leadership shall come out to lead this country in better way than it is at present. Thirdly, dual party system be made to give a smooth and better governance to the Nation. The representatives have no right to get handsome pay or pension when the public of the Nation is at starve. It is not a democracy but paper democracy. The public wants economic and social democracy not paper democracy. Every one is expected to introspect with the prosperous heritage of the nation and quit bad habits of hate, avarice, and corruption and accumulation then endeavors to repeal such enactment which entitles them (legislators) to get pension after rejection. They are the only powerful representatives who may bring and pass such enactment to reject the entitlement of rejected leader and may strengthen their good Karmas for 'Moksha' as a true representative of mass in democracy. Leadership is a service to mankind (Public) and Nation and should not be made profession only for passion for money but be dutiful for the general interest of Nation. India in its history will remember their name, sacrifice and noble deeds attributed to the Nation. I bow down my head before every such leader of the Nation who really serves the mankind and Nation but condemn those, who don't introspect the rich heritage of India and ultimately become the prey of corruption and avarice. "Nation is supreme" there is no comparison and place for the personal interests inclined to corruption and avarice against the National interest.

Jai Hind.


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