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’.”