A 3-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court, referred by a division bench order in Punjab Urban Planning and Development Authority v Vidya Chetal for correctness of a judgment in HUDA v Sunita, unanimously overruled the said decision.
The Supreme Court in Sunita case had held that NCDRC had no jurisdiction to adjudicate the legality behind the demand of “composition fee” and “extension fee” made by HUDA, as the same being statutory obligation, does not qualify as “deficiency in service”.
The bench of Justices NV Ramana, Mohan M. Shantanagoudar and Ajay Rastogi while emphasizing that the purpose of interpretation is to find the legislative intent of an Act, observed that beneficial or remedial legislation needs to be given ‘fair and liberal interpretation’.
Court held that leaving the provisions defining deficiency and services open-ended “indicates the requirement for a liberal interpretation.”
Court also observed, “we need to be mindful of the fact that sovereign functions are undergoing a radical change in the face of privatization and globalization. India being a welfare State, the sovereign functions are also changing. We may note that the government in order to improve the quality of life and welfare of its citizens, has undertaken many commercial adventures.”
Court held, “welfare activities through economic adventures undertaken by the Government or statutory bodies are covered under the jurisdiction of the consumer forums. Even in departments discharging sovereign functions, if there are subunits/wings which are providing services/supply goods for a consideration and they are severable, then they can be considered to come within the ambit of the Act.”
The bench thus held that the interpretation provided by the Sunita case (supra) cannot be sustained as the service provided by the petitioner herein squarely comes under the ambit of ‘service’.
However, the apex court also cautioned against “overinclusivity and the tribunals need to satisfy the ingredients under Consumer Protection Laws, before exercising the jurisdiction.” Court pointed out that not all statutory dues or exactions, arising out of a quid pro quo relationship or otherwise, are amenable to the jurisdiction of the Consumer Forum. The power of the Consumer forum extends to redressing any injustice to a consumer or mala fide, capricious or any oppressive act done by a statutory body, as observed in Ghaziabad Development Authority case.
Thus overruling HUDA v Sunita, the instant case PUDA(now GLADA) v Vidya Chetal was directed to be placed before an appropriate bench for considering the case on merits after obtaining orders from the CJI.
–India Legal Bureau