M/S DADDY’S BUILDERS PVT. LTD. & ANOTHER
MANISHA BHARGAVA AND ANOTHER
Petition for Special Leave to Appeal (Civil) No. 1240 of 2021, Decided On February 11, 2021
JUDGES: Dr. Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud & M.R. Shah JJ.
The State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission had rejected the application filed by the petitioners herein seeking condonation of delay in filing the written statement/written version to the consumer complaint. It was nowhere in dispute that the written version/written statement filed by the petitioners herein was beyond the prescribed period of limitation provided under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Act’), i.e., beyond the period of 45 days. It is also not in dispute that as per the provisions of the Act, the written version/written statement is required to be filed within 30 days and the same can be extended by a further period of 15 days. The order passed by the State Commission came to be confirmed by the National Commission wherein it was noted by the Commission that despite sufficient time granted for filing the written statement the same was not filed within the prescribed period of limitation. Hence, the aforesaid special leave petition came before the Supreme Court for consideration.
Whether the date on which the State Commission passed the order, then on that date, whether the State Commission has the power to condone the delay beyond 45 days for filing the written statement under Section 13 of the Act?
The Supreme Court while dealing with the case at observe that the aforesaid issue whether the State Commission has the power to condone the delay beyond 45 days was not res integra in view of the Constitution Bench decision of this Court in the case of New India Assurance Company Limited v. Hilli Multipurpose Cold Storage Pvt. Ltd. reported in (2020) 5 SCC 757. However, since, it was submitted by the counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioners that as in paragraph 63 it was observed that the said judgment shall be applicable prospectively and, therefore, the said decision shall not be applicable to the complaint which was filed prior to the said judgment and/or the said decision shall not be applicable to the application for condonation of delay filed before the said decision.
However, dealing with the said submission the Court held that such submission cannot be accepted and further, it was required to be noted that as per the decision of the Court in the case of J.J. Merchant v. Shrinath Chaturvedi, reported in (2002) 6 SCC 635, which was a three Judge Bench decision, therein in was held that the consumer fora has no power to extend the time for filing a reply/written statement beyond the period prescribed under the Act. However, thereafter, despite the above three Judge Bench decision, a contrary view was taken by a two Judge Bench and therefore the matter was referred to the five Judge Bench and the Constitution Bench has reiterated the view taken in the case of J.J. Merchant and has again reiterated that the consumer fora has no power and/or jurisdiction to accept the written statement beyond the statutory period prescribed under the Act, i.e., 45 days in all.
Therefore, ultimately, it was left to the concerned fora to accept the written statement beyond the stipulated period of 45 days in an appropriate case. In any case, in view of the earlier decision of this Court in the case of J.J. Merchant (supra) and the subsequent authoritative decision of the Constitution Bench of this Court in the case of New India Assurance Company Limited v. Hilli Multipurpose Cold Storage Pvt. Ltd. (2020) 5 SCC 757, consumer fora has no jurisdiction and/or power to accept the written statement beyond the period of 45 days, therefore, the Court ultimately held that it saw no reason to interfere with the impugned order passed by the learned National Commission and the above noted special leave petition was accordingly dismissed..