Consumer Forum Has No Jurisdiction Or Power To Entertain A Written Statement Beyond Stipulated Period of 45 Days: Supreme Court Reiterates
A Division Bench of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice M.R. Shah, while dismissing an SLP, clarified, “Consumer Forum has no Jurisdiction or power to entertain a written statement beyond a period of 45 days.”
The State Commission, by order dated 26.09.2018, rejected the application filed by the petitioners herein seeking condonation of delay in filing the written statement to the consumer complaint, which was later confirmed by the National Commission. Hence, the present special leave petition.
Counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioners submitted that it is true that as per decision of the Constitution Bench in New India Assurance company Limited v. Hilli Multipurpose Cold Storage Private Limited, (2020) 5 SCC 757, District Forum has no power to extend the time to file the response to the complaint beyond the period of 15 days in addition to 30 days as is envisaged under Section 13 of the Act. However as observed in paragraph 63, the said judgment shall be applicable prospectively only. Therefore, it is the case of the petitioners that the aforesaid decision shall not be applicable retrospectively, and more particularly to the complaints filed before the said decision.
It is further submitted that in the present case the application for condition came up before the State Commission on 26.09.2018, the same day on which the Apex Court decided in Reliance General Insurance Co. Ltd. v. M/s Mampee Timbers & Hardwares Pvt. Ltd. (Diary No. 2365 of 2017 decided on 10.02.2017) that consumer fora can accept the written statement beyond the stipulated time of 45 days in an appropriate case, on suitable terms, including the payment of costs.
Therefore, it is the case on behalf of the petitioners that the State Commission ought to have condoned the delay in filing the written statement.
Court referred to the observation made by a Three judge bench in, J.J. Merchant v. Shrinath Chaturvedi, (2002) 6 SCC 635, which was again reiterated by a larger five judge bench, “Consumer fora has no power and/or jurisdiction to accept the written statement beyond the statutory period prescribed under the Act, i.e., 45 days in all.”
With respect to the reliance placed on the decision in M/s Mampee Timbers & Hardwares Pvt. Ltd, Court held, “In order dated 10.02.2017, it is specifically mentioned that it will be open to the concerned fora to accept the written statement filed beyond the stipulated period of 45 days in an appropriate case, on suitable terms, including the payment of costs and to proceed with the matter. Therefore, ultimately, it was left to the concerned fora to accept the written statement beyond the stipulated period of 45 days in an appropriate case. As observed by the National Commission that despite sufficient time granted the written statement was not filed within the prescribed period of limitation.”
It was conclusively held by the bench that, the view taken in J.J. Merchant and New India Assurance remains the settled law on entertaining written statements in consumer cases.
Case Title: M/S Daddy Builders v. Manisha Bhargava and Anr | SLP (Civil) No. 1240 of 2021