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Appeal from State Consumer Commission lies in NCDRC, not High Court: SC

The Supreme Court has held that the National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission can entertain appeals from Ex Parte orders of State Consumer Commission, and the High Court should avoid entertaining writ petitions against orders of the State Commission, if there is an alternative and efficacious remedy available.

A Division Bench of the Supreme Court, comprising of Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar and Justice R. Subhash Reddy set aside the order of the High Court of Bombay in Shiur Sakhar Karkhana Pvt. Ltd v SBI, concluding that an appeal against an ex parte order will not lie before the National Commission under Section 21 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, and in absence of an alternative remedy available, High Court had the jurisdiction to entertain and allow the writ petition.

The Bench, while deciding the question if the National Commission has jurisdiction to set aside an order of the State Commission placing a party ex parte under Section 21 observed the following:

“a plain reading of Section 21(a) (ii) read with Section 19 of the Act makes it clear that the National Commission has jurisdiction to entertain appeals against the orders passed by the State Commission. Section 21(a)(ii) does not state that appeals cannot be entertained against orders that have been passed ex parte. The plain and simple meaning of the said provision is that appeals will be entertained by the National Commission against any order passed by the State Commission. The word “orders” as used in Section 21(a)(ii) means and includes “any orders”. Thus, an order of the State Commission placing a particular party ex parte can also be questioned before the National Commission.”

The Bench held that in the presence of an alternative remedy of appeal to the National Commission, the High Court could have avoided entertaining the writ petition against the order of the State Commission. The presence of an alternative and efficacious remedy though not an absolute bar on the jurisdiction of the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution, is still a rule of discretion and self-imposed limitation rather than law.

The judgement of the High Court was set aside and appeal to the National Consumer Commission was allowed.

— India Legal Bureau

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