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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in District Consumer Forum

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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