SUPREME COURT RULES THAT DISMISSAL OF CONSUMER COMPLAINTS ON MERE TECHNICAL GROUNDS AND DELAYS DEFEATS JUSTICE
The National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (NCDRC) and other consumer courts have regularly dismissed complaints on mere technical grounds and without condoning marginal delays. The NCDRC, vide order dated 15th February 2019 in the case of “Vibha Bakshi Gokhale vs. Gruhashilp Constructions” dismissed the appeal, filed by the flat buyer against a construction firm, on failure to file the rejoinder and evidence. The order was based on the conditional order dated 16th November 2018 requiring the appellants to file a rejoinder and evidence within a period of four weeks, failing which the complaint was to stand dismissed automatically. Therefore on 15th February 2019 the court dismissed the appeal observing that it is perhaps because the appellants do not have any merit in the case, that there was a delay in filing a rejoinder and evidence.
The Appellant appealed to the Supreme Court of India against the said Order of NCDRC. On 10th May 2019 the Bench comprising of Hon’ble Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Hemant Gupta of Supreme Court of India, made an observation regarding the dismissal of consumer complaints on small technical grounds. While setting aside the said Order of NCDRC, the Hon’ble Bench observed that Orders like such not only detracts from the very purpose for which the NCDRC was established but the dismissal of consumer complaints on technical grounds adds to the burden of litigation and fails to ensure justice in consumer fora. The Hon’ble Bench also stated that the main motive behind the setup of NCDRC is protection of the rights of consumers by helping them to seek access to justice under the Consumer Protection Act,1986.
The Court held that drawing an inference regarding the delay being caused by the appellant because of lack of merit in the case, was totally unwarranted. The marginal delays, which are caused, needs to be condoned in order to safeguard the purpose of the Act.
The Court went further to state that while not condoning marginal delays on grounds that the Consumer Protection Act 1986 stipulates a period within which the consumer complaint has to be disposed off, the Courts need to keep in mind that complaints can not be disposed off due to non-availability of resources and infrastructure and therefore it is harsh to penalise a bona fide litigant for marginal delays that may occur in judicial process.
This Judgment has paved the way for justice for consumers by clarifying that there is a need of condoning marginal delays and technical grounds to ensure that the ends of justice are not defeated and no bona fide litigant shall be denied justice because of unwarranted inferences, technical grounds or marginal delays.
Sourabh Kumar Mishra
Senior Legal Associate
The Indian Lawyer