Objections Can’t Delay Consumer Plaint Hearing – Times of India – 24-Nov-2014
November 25, 2014 - Uncategorized
Opponents often raise preliminary objections or technical objections -issues like limitation, jurisdiction and maintainability, among others, without actually touching upon the crux of the dispute -and demand that these be heard first and decided on. This delays justice and increases litigation cost as the first round of proceedings decides the preliminary objection, leaving aside the main dispute. Opponents then file appeal against the order on the objections, stalling the complaint. After preliminary objections issue is resolved, the complaint is taken up for hearing on merits, and its order is again challenged in appeal in the second round. This technique is adopted by opponents to wear out consumers. Here are some judgments that will help consumers oppose such dilatory tactics.
Case Study 1: Monica Apartment CHS had filed a complaint against Arm Engineers before the Margao district forum. The firm filed its reply in which it raised three preliminary objections-the complainant was not a consumer, the complaint was time-barred, and the forum lacked territorial jurisdiction. The forum held that the complaint was within limitation and decided to proceed without considering the remaining objections. The firm appealed to the Goa state commission for deciding on preliminary objections first.The state commission observed that consumer fora adopt a summary procedure to provide an expeditious, simple and less expensive remedy for resolving a grievance. But unlike civil courts, consumer fora do not have any separate stage to decide on preliminary objections. While arriving at this conclusion, reliance was placed on the national commission judgment in Smt Kovi Ajitha & Ors vs Philips Medical Systems India Private Ltd, where it was held that the purpose of speedy disposal would be frustrated if preliminary objections are entertained and decided. Accordingly , by its October 1 order, delivered by Justice Britto for the bench, along with member Jagdish Prabhudesai, the Goa state commission held that all objections as well as merits of the dispute must be decided at one go.
Case Study 2: The managing committee members of co-operative credit societies had filed a writ petition in the HC, contending that consumer fora couldn’t entertain disputes against co-operative societies as the remedy lay before co-operative courts.
In a May 3, 2011, judgment, delivered by Justice D G Karnik along with Chief Justice Mohit Shah, the HC observed that these objections could be raised before the district forum.Relying on the SC observations that preliminary issues are mostly raised to delay the final adjudication, the HC held that this would be equally applicable to the consumer fora. Instead of deciding the case piecemeal, if the decision is given simultaneously on merits as well as the preliminary objections, the entire controversy would be resolved at one shot.
Conclusion: Consumers must not allow opponents to have multiple rounds of appeals.They should insist on a composite hearing instead of piecemeal adjudication.