Consumer Protection Act – Reply to complaint should be filed within 45 days, rules SC
The Consumer Protection Act (CPA) stipulates that the party against whom a complaint is lodged must file its reply within a particular time frame – 30 days which can be extended by up to 15 days.
But this stipulation has often been ignored.
The Consumer Forums have been granting extension of time repeatedly “in the interest of justice”.
(Earlier there were some conflicting judgments on the interpretation of this provision as to whether this period was mandatory, or merely procedural and directory.)
In Civil Appeal Nos. 10941 10942 of 2013 New India Assurance Co. Ltd. v/s Hilli Multipurpose Cold Storage Pvt. Ltd. the Supreme Court has resolved the conflicting interpretations.
In this decision dated December 4, 2015, a specially constituted three-judge bench of the Supreme Court has now authoritatively laid down the law that the time stipulated under the CPA must be strictly adhered to.
It observed that consumer fora are bound to follow the procedure prescribed under the CPA. The law provides that the version in reply to the complaint has to be filed within a period of 30 days or such extended period not exceeding 15 days, as may be granted. This provision is for having a speedy trial. If this period is not adhered to, it will defeat the legislative mandate to dispose of consumer cases within three months, or five months, where laboratory testing of goods is required.
Accordingly, the court concluded that the legislative mandate to file the version within a maximum period of 45 days must be strictly adhered to.
In other words, the Consumer Forums cannot grant any time beyond 45 days.
This landmark ruling will ensure that opposite parties do not delay filing their version to deliberately delay the proceedings in order to harass the consumer.
Link to the Full Decision:
22.11.17 Appeal has been filed against the above decision which is pending: