Mer­it­less Rejection

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There may be an in­stance where prima fa­cie your case will not be jus­ti­fi­able or will look like it is mer­it­less. How­ever, even in such a case the fo­rum can­not refuse to ac­cept and hear the com­plaint.

The sub­ject was raised by pres­i­dents of var­i­ous fo­rums at a seminar or­ga­nized by the Gov­ern­ment of In­dia on 15 March to mark World Con­sumer Day. They dis­cussed if a com­plaint could be re­jected for ad­mis­sion at the pre­lim­i­nary stage if prima fa­cie it ap­peared to be a mer­it­less case. Af­ter the dis­cus­sion, the pan­el­lists in­clud­ing the pres­i­dents con­cluded that a com­plainant should get the fi­nal ver­dict only af­ter the three pa­ram­e­ters dis­cussed above were thor­oughly in­ves­ti­gated.

It is to be noted that the Act does not em­power the court to de­cide the merit of any case. It is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the de­fen­dant in the com­plaint to un­der­line the loop­holes of the com­plaint and high­light el­e­ments that they be­lieve are in­ap­pro­pri­ate enough for the com­plaint to be dis­missed.

On the other hand, it is the com­plainant’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure that their com­plaint is gen­uine by es­tab­lish­ing that a) the com­plainant is the con­sumer, b) the com­plaint falls within the lim­i­ta­tion pe­riod of two years, and c) the com­plaint falls within the ju­ris­dic­tion of the fo­rum. The fi­nal ver­dict on whether the case can be heard fur­ther is given by the jury af­ter hear­ing the ar­gu­ments of both the par­ties and col­lec­tion of sub­stan­tial ev­i­dences.

It is a gen­eral prin­ci­ple of law that ev­ery per­son in lit­i­ga­tion has a right to be heard and no staff or any in­di­vid­ual em­ployed at any level in the fo­rum has any power to re­ject the com­plaint on any ba­sis.

There have been a few in­stances wherein some con­sumer fo­rums have dis­missed the com­plaint at the time of ad­mis­sion on the ba­sis of it be­ing mer­it­less. Such in­stances have been chal­lenged and are not ap­pre­ci­ated by higher ju­di­ciary. The pro­vi­sions laid down in the Act do not al­low any such prac­tice.

Case to Note

The Na­tional Com­mis­sion faced a sit­u­a­tion wherein one Shamsher Singh’s land was ac­quired by Haryana Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity (HUDA). Against this ac­qui­si­tion, Singh was promised another plot un­der ous­tees’ quota scheme of Haryana gov­ern­ment. At that time, un­der ous­tees pol­icy, peo­ple whose land

Na­tional Com­mis­sion’s Ver­dict

The Na­tional Com­mis­sion thor­oughly dis­cussed the def­i­ni­tion of con­sumer and also re­ferred to other sim­i­lar cases. The con­clu­sive ver­dict went against Shamsher Singh as the com­mis­sion ruled that Singh was not a con­sumer.

Cit­ing the ex­am­ple of a spe­cific case – HUDA ver­sus Udai Singh (a sim­i­lar case de­cided ear­lier at Na­tional Com­mis­sion) – the apex fo­rum held that al­lot­ment of residential plots un­der ous­tees scheme was a ges­ture of good­will and “there be­ing no el­e­ment of hir­ing of ser­vices for con­sid­er­a­tion, the com­plainant was not cov­ered un­der the def­i­ni­tion of ‘con­sumer’.”

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