June 12, 2018
Case name: Rita Kesh v. Biswanath Singha
In a recent case taken up by the NCDRC, the Commission elaborated on the law pertaining to limitation period for filing appeal as stipulated under Section 15 of the Consumer Protection Act to hold that limitation period prescribed under the Act does not commence from the date of pronouncement of the order in the open Court by itself and that the said date cannot be the starting point of determining the period of limitation under Section 15 of the Act.
In the case, Appeal was filed by the Appellant after 115 days since expiry of the statutory period of limitation for filing an Appeal.
The provision of Appeal as enumerated under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is as under.
Section 15 of the Consumer Protection Act – Appeal – Any person aggrieved by an order made by the District Forum may prefer an appeal against such order to the State Commission within a period of thirty days from the date of an order, in such form and manner as may be prescribed.
Provided further that the State Commission may entertain an appeal after the expiry of the said period of thirty days if it is satisfied that there was sufficient cause for not finding it within that period.
The National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (NCDRC) while making an order in favour of the Appellant, made the following observations in the case:
- That on reading the provisions of Section 15 of the Consumer Protection Act goes to show that any person aggrieved by an order made by the District Forum may prefer an appeal to the State Commission within a period of 30 days from the date of the order. But under the proviso the State Commission is enjoined with the discretion to entertain the appeal even after the expiry of the period of 30 days if it is satisfied that there was sufficient cause for not filing the appeal within 30 days from the date of order.
- That from the scheme of the Act it becomes apparent that the Consumer Protection Act has been enacted with the object to provide for better protection of the interest of the consumers, as a measure for economical and speedy remedy for the settlement of their disputes and matters connected therewith.
- The NCDRC made reference to Rule 4(10) of the Haryana Consumer Protection Rules, 1988 which provides for communication of the order of the District Forum to the parties free of charge in order to avoid the delay as well as to save the parties from the burden of expenses that may be incurred for obtaining the certified copy.
- The NCDRC opined that if the Rule itself enjoins a duty for communicating the order of the District Forum duly signed and dated to the parties free of charge, there will hardly be an occasion for the parties to make an application for obtaining a certified copy thereof.
- The NCDRC observed that Section 15 of the Act cannot be read in isolation but it has to be read alongwith Rules 4 (10) of the Rules and a combined reading of Section 15 and the Rule gives an impression that the purposes, object and intention of these statutory provisions is to protect the interest of the parties before the District Forum by making it obligatory on the District Forum to provide a copy of the order duly signed and dated by the members of the Bench and the period of limitation prescribed with regard to the filing of an appeal shall be computed as commencing from the date of communication of the order in the manner laid down in sub-rule (10) of the Rule 4.
- That the date of pronouncement of the order in the open Court by itself cannot be the starting point of determining the period of limitation under Section 15 of the Act. That being so, it has to be appreciated that mere pronouncement of an order in the open Court will not be enough but under the scheme of the Rules a copy of the said order has also to be communicated to the parties affected by the aid order so that the party adversely affected therefrom may have a fair and reasonable opportunity of knowing that text, reasons and contents thereof so as to formulate grounds of attack before the appellant or higher forums.
- That in the absence of such communication of signed and dated order, the party adversely affected by it will have no means of knowing the contents of the order so as to challenge the same and get it set aside by the appellate authority or the higher Forums.
- The NCDRC ruled that the under Consumer Protection jurisdiction, the period of limitation for filing appeal or revision shall start running from the date on which free copy of the certified order is communicated to the party in the manner laid down in Rule 4 (10) of the Haryana Consumer Protection Rules, 1988.
In view of the aforesaid observations, the NCDRC allowed the revision petition and condoned the delay caused by the petition in filing the appeal.
NCDRC’s order can be accessed here.