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The Supreme Court has held that dismissal of consumer complaints for marginal delays in filing or other technical grounds only “add to the burden of litigation and defeat the purpose of ensuring Justice”.

Saying so, the apex court directed the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) to restore a consumer complaint after an appeal was filed by Complainant challenging the Order passed by NCDRC wherein it dismissed the appeal filed by a flat buyer against a construction firm on non filing of rejoinder and evidence.

A bench comprising DY Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta said, “The ground for rejection of the complaint is technical and in disregard of the requirements of Substantial Justice. The purpose which Parliament sought to achieve by setting up the NCDRC is to protect the rights of the consumers to seek access to justice under the Consumer Protection Act 1986. In the present case, there was a conditional order dated 16 November 2018 requiring the appellants to file a rejoinder and evidence within period of four weeks, failing which the complaint was to stand dismissed automatically. On 15 February 2019, the NCDRC declined to grant any further time to the appellants and, proceeded to observe that it is perhaps because the appellants. Do not have any merit in the case, that there was a delay in filing a rejoinder and evidence. This inference was unwarranted.”

The bench said:  “We are affirmatively of the view that orders of this nature detract from the true purpose for which the NCDRC has been established. The NCDRC should have borne this in mind instead of rejecting the complaint on a technicality. Such dismissals only add to the burden of litigation and defeat the purpose of ensuring Justice in the consumer does.”

The order further reads on that, “We have been repeatedly observing that marginal delays are not being condoned by the NCDRC on the ground that the Consumer Protection Act 1986 stipulates a period within which a consumer complaint has to be disposed. Though the 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. In this background, it is harsh to penalize a bona fide litigant fit 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.”

In view of the above give reasons the Apex Court has set aside the impugned orders passed by NCDRC and directed it to restore the complaint which was filed in NCDRC through complainant.

—India Legal Bureau

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