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Consumer Forum can’t extend period beyond 45 days for opposite party to file version, says SC

The Supreme Court on Wednesday held that District Consumer Forums do not have the power to extend the time beyond 45 days as prescribed under the Consumer Protection Act for filing of version by the opposite party in a Consumer case.

Under section 13(2)(a), the District Forum receives a complaint under section 12 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, a copy of the complaint is to be served upon the opposite party, and the opposite party has to provide his version of the case within a period of 30 days from the date of receipt of the copy of the complaint. Section 13(2) also lays down that the District Forum may grant to the opposite party an extension of 15 days. The same is the time period for filing version in State Commission and National Commission as well.

The 5-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra and comprising Indira Banerjee, Vineet Sara, S Ravindra Bhat and MR Shah also said that the period of 30 days will start from the date on which the opposite party comes to know about the complaint.

The judgment came in view of a case of New India Assurance Co. Ltd. v. Hilli Multipurpose Cold Storage Pvt. Ltd. where the question of law that arose was whether in any case a period beyond 45 days could be granted.

The petitioner had submitted that not granting extension would be antithetical to the legal principle of audi alteram partem, which means that no person should be judged without a fair hearing in which each party is given the opportunity to respond to the evidence against them.

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