J. J. Merchant v. Srinath Chaturvedi AIR 2002 SC 2931

*J. J. Merchant v. Srinath Chaturvedi  AIR 2002 SC 2931

indiankanoon.org link

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*Not Printed

Civil Appeal No. 7975 of 2001  decided on 12/08/2002

Headnote

(A) Consumer Protection Act (68 of 1986) , S.17, S.21, S.1— Delay in disposal of complaint – Not a ground to reject complaint and direct party to approach civil Court – Doing so would be unjust and would frustrate object of Act. (Para 7)

(B) Consumer Protection Act (68 of 1986) , S.17, S.21, S.13— Complaint about negligence by doctor – Involving complicated issues – Party need not be directed to approach civil Court – Forum is competent to decide complex issues – Plea that trial by Forum is summary – Not ground to direct party to civil Court.

National Commission is required to be headed by a retired Judge of the Supreme Court and the State Commission is required to be headed by a retired High Court Judge. They are competent to decide complicated issues of law or Facts. Hence it would not be proper to say that in cases where negligence of experts is alleged consumers should be directed to approach the Civil Court.(Para 11)

The plea that complicated questions of facts cannot be decided in summary proceedings requires to be rejected because under the Act, for summary or speedy trial, exhaustive procedure in conformity with the principles of natural justice is provided. Therefore, merely because it is mentioned that Commission or Forum is required to have summary trial would hardly be a ground for directing the consumer to approach the Civil Court. For trial to be just and reasonable, long drawn delayed procedure, giving ample opportunity to the litigant to harass the aggrieved other side, is not necessary. It should be kept in mind that legislature has provided alternative, efficacious,

simple inexpensive and speedy remedy to the consumers and that should not be curtailed on such ground. It would also be totally wrong assumption that because summary trial is provided, justice cannot be done when some questions of facts are required to be dealt with or decided. The Act provides sufficient safeguards.(Para 12)

(C) Consumer Protection Act (68 of 1986) , S.13— Speedy disposal of complaint – Procedure to be followed by Commission – Time limit fixed for filing reply to complaint – To be strictly adhered to – Commission to insist on production of all documents relied upon by parties along with complaint and defence version – Evidence of experts – Can be taken on affidavits – Commission for examination of witnesses – Can be issued – Cross-examination can be done by permitting party who intends to cross-examine by putting certain questions in writing and those questions also could be replied on affidavits – Mode of video conferencing or Telephone conference can also be used for cross-examination. (Para 15 17 19 37)

(D) Consumer Protection Act (68 of 1986) , S.1— Speedy justice to consumers – Pendency of cases before Forum – To avoid pendency one Bench may not be sufficient – President of National Commission directed to draw attention of Government for taking appropriate actions – Proposed amendment, to Act under by Consumer Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2002 shows that Parliament is alive to problems faced by consumers and the consumer forums – Therefore, further directions are not necessary – Government also to take appropriate steps to provide proper infrastructure. (Para 22 23 35 36)

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