Not be­yond 45 days for re­ply­ing to com­plaint in con­sumer cases: Supreme Court

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In what will help speed up de­ci­sions in con­sumer cases, Supreme Court has ruled that a party will not get more than 45 days for re­ply­ing to a com­plaint in a con­sumer fo­rum. The court said this pe­riod can­not be ex­tended un­der any cir­cum­stances.

Un­der­lin­ing that Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Act, 1986, aims at pro­vid­ing ex­pe­di­tious re­lief to con­sumers against un­fair trade prac­tices and de­fi­ciency in ser­vices, a three-judge bench led by Jus­tice Anil R Dave held that no party shall hence­forth be given more than 45 days to ad­duce ex­pla­na­tion to a com­plaint. If a party fails to do so, the right to sub­mit a writ­ten state­ment shall be closed and the case may be de­cided straight­away in the com­plainant’s favour.

In­ter­pret­ing Sec­tion 13 (2) (a) of the Act, the bench said that this pro­vi­sion had to be given a strict in­ter­pre­ta­tion in view of the leg­isla­tive man­date, which wanted a speedy dis­posal of th­ese cases, prefer­ably within six months. On re­ceiv­ing the com­plaint, the court said, the op­po­site party is re­quired to be given no­tice di­rect­ing him to give his ver­sion within 30 days. This time can be ex­tended by an­other 15 days. This ex­ten­sion may be granted by a District Fo­rum or a State or Na­tional Con­sumer Com­mis­sion.

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