Dismissal of consumer complaints on mere technical grounds defeats the purpose of ensuring justice: Supreme Court
The Supreme Court has held that dismissal of consumer complaints for marginal delays in filing or other technical grounds only “adds to the burden of litigation and defeats the purpose of ensuring justice.”
While setting aside an order of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) in the case of Vibha Bakshi Gokhale versus Gruhashilp Constructions, the SC bench comprising of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Hemant Gupta directed NCDRC to restore a consumer complaint after an appeal was filed by complainant Vibha Bakshi challenging the order passed by NCDRC wherein it dismissed the appeal filed by a flat buyer against a construction firm on the basis of non-filing of rejoinder and evidence.
In the said case, the complainant had filed a complaint before the National Commission complaining of a deficiency in service on the part of the builder. The dispute was regarding a residential flat that was allegedly booked by the complainant. However, NCDRC had dismissed the complaint as the complainant had failed to file a rejoinder and evidence within the stipulated time.
The SC bench said that the basis for rejection of the complaint was technical and in disregard of the requirements of substantial justice. The bench emphasised that they were affirmatively of the view that orders of this nature detracted from the true purpose for which the NCDRC was established. The NCDRC should have borne this in mind instead of rejecting the complaint on a technicality.
Although the Consumer Protection Act stipulates a period for disposing of a consumer complaint, it is also a sobering reflection that complaints cannot be disposed of due to non-availability of resources and infrastructure. Against this background, it is harsh to penalise a bona fide litigant for marginal delays that may occur in the judicial process. The consumer fora should bear this in mind so that the ends of justice are not defeated.
While this verdict will be a big relief for consumers, the Supreme Court is yet to make it clear as to what will be the quantum of marginal delays the consumer courts should consider. Such ambiguity can lead to other issues in prospective consumer cases.