Re­ply to plaint must be filed in 45 days

The Times of India (Mumbai edition) - - TIMES CITY - Je­hangir B Gai Kar­nala bird sanctuary shut today, tomorrow WEATHER

The Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Act stip­u­lates that a party against whom a com­plaint is made must file its re­ply within 30 days of re­ceipt of the no­tice, or within an ex­tended pe­riod not ex­ceed­ing 15 days. As there were con­flict­ing judge­ments about this clause be­ing manda­tory or di­rec­tory, it was re­ferred to a Con­sti­tu­tion Bench of the Supreme Court.

The court con­sid­ered the ob­jects and rea­sons for en­act­ing the Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Act, which men­tion the Act was for pro­vid­ing speedy and sim­ple re­dres­sal for con­sumer dis­putes by set­ting up a quasi-ju­di­cial mech­a­nism for bet­ter pro­tec­tion of con­sumers. It also con­sid­ered the pro­vi­sions of the Act which stip­u­late that the com­plaint would have to be de­cided ex parte if no re­ply is filed to con­test it.

The court noted that the leg­isla­tive in­tent was to get the dis­pute ex­pe­di­tiously re­solved, by pro­ceed­ing ex parte if no re­ply was filed. Also,

Reg­u­la­tion 10 of the Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Reg­u­la­tions pro­vides for grant of shorter pe­riod to file a re­ply, while there is no pro­vi­sion for grant of ad­di­tional time.

The court ob­served the leg­is­la­ture had vested the con­sumer fora with the dis­cre­tionary power to ac­cept ap­peals filed be­yond the lim­i­ta­tion pe­riod; how­ever, for replies to a com­plaint, dis­cre­tion was lim­ited to an ex­ten­sion of 15 days only. So a pro­ceed­ing could not be chal­lenged sim­ply be­cause ad­her­ing to the statu­tory pe­riod may cause hard­ship or might vi­o­late the prin­ci­ples of nat­u­ral jus­tice.

The SC also ob­served that le­gal pro­vi­sions have to be strictly fol­lowed to achieve the ob­jec­tive of speedy and sim­ple jus­tice. It pointed out that it was well set­tled that law would pre­vail over eq­uity. So the court con­cluded that the pro­vi­sion of the CPA was manda­tory, and the fora could not grant any ex­ten­sion be­yond 15 days.

The court ob­served that the law pro­vided that the start­ing point for com­put­ing the pe­riod to file the re­ply as the date when no­tice was re­ceived by the party. Since it would not be pos­si­ble to file a re­ply un­less the com­plaint is served along with the no­tice, the court held that the date of no­tice must be in­ter­preted to mean the date of service of no­tice along with a copy of the com­plaint. Any griev­ance about non-re­ceipt of the com­plaint with the no­tice must be raised on the very first date, and not there­after.

By its or­der of March 4, the apex court held it was manda­tory to file a re­ply within 45 days (30 + 15 days ex­ten­sion), af­ter which the com­plaint would be pro­ceeded ex parte.

(The au­thor is a con­sumer ac­tivist and has won the Govt. of In­dia’s Na­tional Youth Award for Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion. His email is je­[email protected]­look.in)

TTues­day: 0650 hrs Mon­day: 1847 hrs Partly cloudy sky. Max­i­mum & min­i­mum tem­per­a­tures would be around 30°C & 19°C re­spec­tively. Co­laba 63%,

San­tacruz 53%

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.