Praying condonation of delay before Consumer commission u/s 12(2) of Limitation Act

It must be borne in mind that Consumer Protection Act, 1986 lays down its own period of limitation.

CHHATTISGARH STATE CONSUMER DISPUTES REDRESSAL COMMISSION

( Before : Shri Justice R.S. Sharma, President, Shri D.K. Poddar and Shri Narendra Gupta, Members. )

ROYAL SUNDARAM ALLIANCE INSURANCE COMPANY LIMITED — Appellant

Vs.

UMASHANKAR SAHU — Respondent

Appeal No. FA/2016/694

Decided on : 22-12-2016

Consumer Protection Act, 1986 – Section 15, Section 24A

ORDER

Shri Justice R.S. Sharma, President. (Oral) – This appeal is directed against the order dated 14.07.2016, passed by District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Bilaspur (C.G.) (henceforth “District Forum”) in Complaint Case No.CC/41/2016, whereby the complaint of the respondent (complainant), has been allowed and the appellant (O.P.) has been directed to pay the amounts to the complainant within one month, as mentioned in para 8 of the impugned order.

2. The appellant (O.P.) has preferred this appeal against the impugned order dated 14.07.2016, passed by the District Forum and has also filed an application for condonation of delay in filing appeal. The appeal is belated by 86 days.

3. Shri Dinesh Verma, learned counsel for the appellant (O.P.) has argued that the appellant (O.P.) was ex-parte and the learned District Forum prepared certified copy of the order on 20.07.2016 and sent the same to the appellant’s office on 27.07.2016, which was served on 01.08.2016. The copy of the order sent by the District Forum was served on 01.08.2016 and the same was forwarded to the higher authority of the appellant (O.P.) Company at Chennai and it was suggested by the appellant’s (O.P’s) higher authority to seek legal opinion with regard to filing appeal from the counsel. Hence the copy and all other relevant papers were sent to the counsel. Thereafter the opinion of the counsel was sent on 17.08.2016. The decision to file the instant appeal was taken by the appellant’s (O.P’s) higher authority on 25.08.2016 and sent relevant papers along with original order copy to the counsel. The counsel for the appellant (O.P.) prepared a memo of appeal and sent the same for its approval. In these circumstances the appeal became barred by 126 day from the date of order and there is delay of about 70 days from the date of knowledge of order i.e. 01.08.2016. There was no deliberate delay or dilatory tactics adopted by the appellant (O.P.) to file the instant appeal beyond limitation. The delay occurred in filing appeal is bona fide, therefore, the same is liable to be condoned. He placed reliance on Revision Petition No.2444/2015 – Future Generali India Insurance Company Limited v. Tejram Sahu & another, decided by Hon’ble National Commission vide order dated 04.10.2016.

4. We have heard arguments of Shri Dinesh Verma, learned counsel for the appellant (O.P.) on the application filed by the appellant (O.P.) for condonation of delay in filing appeal and have also perused the record of the District Forum.

5. In Basavraj & Anr. v. The Spl. Land Acquisition Officer, 2013 AIR SCW 6510, Hon’ble Supreme Court observed thus:-

“9. Sufficient cause is the cause for which defendant could not be blamed for his absence. The meaning of the word “sufficient” is “adequate” or “enough”, inasmuch as may be necessary to answer the purpose intended. Therefore, the word “sufficient” embraces no more than that which provides a platitude, which when the act done suffices to accomplish the purpose intended in the facts and circumstances existing in a case, duly examined from the view point of a reasonable standard of a cautious man. In this context, “sufficient cause” means that the party should not have acted in a negligent manner or there was a want of bona fide on its part in view of the facts and circumstances of a case or it cannot be alleged that the party has “not acted diligently” or “remained inactive”. However, the facts and circumstances of each case must afford sufficient ground to enable the Court concerned to exercise discretion for the reason that whenever the Court exercises discretion, it has to be exercised judiciously. The applicant must satisfy the Court that he was prevented by any “sufficient cause” from prosecuting his case, and unless a satisfactory explanation is furnished, the Court should not allow the application for condonation of delay. The court has to examine whether the mistake is bona fide or was merely a device to cover an ulterior purpose. (See: Manindra Land and Building Corporation Ltd. v. Bhootnath Banerjee &Ors., AIR 1964 SC 1336; Lala Matadin v. A.Narayanan, AIR 1970 SC 1953; Parimal v. Veena alias Bharti AIR 2011 SC 1150 : (2011 AIR SEW 1233); and Maniben Devraj Shah v. Municipal Corporation of Brihan Mumbai, AIR 2012 SC 1629 : (2012 AIR SCW 2412.)

12. It is a settled legal proposition that law of limitation may harshly affect a particular party but it has to be applied with all its rigour when the statute so prescribes. The Court has no power to extend the period of limitation on equitable grounds. “A result flowing from a statutory provision is never an evil. A Court has no power to ignore that provision to relieve what it considers a distress resulting from its operation.” The statutory provision may cause hardship or inconvenience to a particular party but the Court has no choice but to enforce it giving full effect to the same. The legal maxim “dura lex sed lex” which means “the law is hard but it is the law”, stands attracted in such a situation. It has consistently been held that, “inconvenience is not” a decisive factor to be considered while interpreting a statute.

15. The law on the issue can be summarised to the effect that where a case has been presented in the court beyond limitation, the applicant has to explain the court as to what was the “sufficient cause” which means an adequate and enough reason which prevented him to approach the court within limitation. In case a party is found to be negligent, or for want of bona fide on his part in the facts and circumstances of the case, or found to have not acted diligently or remained inactive, there cannot be a justified ground to condone the delay. No court could be justified in condoning such an inordinate delay by imposing any condition whatsoever. The application is to be decided only within the parameters laid down by this court in regard to the condonation of delay. In case there was no sufficient cause to prevent a litigant to approach the court on time condoning the delay without any justification, putting any condition whatsoever, amounts to passing an order in violation of the statutory provisions and it tantamounts to showing utter disregard to the legislature.”

6. The Hon’ble Supreme Court in Anshul Aggarwal v. New Okhla Industrial Development Authority, IV (2011) CPJ 63 (SC), has laid down that :

“It is also apposite to observe that while deciding an application filed in such cases for condonation of delay, the Court has to keep in mind that the special period of limitation has been prescribed under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 for filing appeals and revisions in consumer matters and the object of expeditious adjudication of the consumer disputes will get defeated if this Court was to entertain highly belated petitions filed against the orders of the Consumer Foras.”

7. In Cordcon Builders Pvt. Ltd. & Anr. v. Valerian Anthony Diago & Anr. 2015 (2) CPR 517 (NC), Hon’ble National Commission has observed thus :-

“10. Thus, it becomes clear that almost after about 9 months he applied for certified copy of the impugned order in spite of having knowledge of the impugned order. Section 12 (2) of Limitation Act runs as under:

“(2) In computing the period of limitation for an appeal or an application for leave to appeal or for revision or for review of a judgment, the day on which judgment complained of was pronounced and the time requisite for obtaining a copy of the decree, sentence or order appealed from or sought to be revised or reviewed shall be excluded.

Thus, limitation runs from the date of pronouncement/knowledge and is such circumstances limitation for filing appeal started from 10.04.2012 and period taken in obtaining certified copy is to be excluded for the purpose of calculation of condonation of delay. Apparently, appellant applied for certified copy on 4.01.2013 and he received copy on the same day; hence, only one day for getting certified copy of the impugned order is to be excluded for computation of limitation for filing appeal.

11. Learned Counsel for the appellant submitted that period of limitation is to be calculated from the date of receiving free copy as provided under Regulation 21 of the C.P. Regulations, 2005. This argument is devoid of force because this provision only directs to the Consumer Fora to give parties free of cost copy of the order, but it nowhere specifies that limitation will run from the date of receipt of free copy. If a party does not receive free copy at all, it cannot be held that limitation will not run against him till he receives certified copy. Limitation will run from the date he obtains knowledge of the order passed by Consumer Fora and only period taken in obtaining certified copy will be excluded. Appellant should have applied for certified copy of order on 10.04.2012, when judgment was pronounced in his presence and as he did not apply for certified copy uptill 4.1.2013, period from 11.4.2012 to 3.1.2013 cannot be excluded from period of limitation provided for filing appeal.”

8. In Lachoo @ Laxminarayan v. Proprietory : Verma Watch House Shyam Talkies, 2015 (4) CPR 337 (NC), Hon’ble National Commission has observed that “On bare perusal of record of Forum & affidavit filed by complainant, appears that reason assigned by complainant regarding delay, not satisfactory and delay not explained properly.”

9. In M/s. Samia International Builders (P.) Ltd. v. Neeta Rani, 2016 (1) CPR 19 (NC), Hon’ble National Commission has observed that “Sufficient cause for condoning delay in each case question of fact. No leniency should be shown to such type of litigants, who in order to cover up their own fault and negligence, go on filing merit less petitions in different foras.”

10. In Rituraj Construction v. Prakash Ramchandra Kale, I (2016) CPJ 272 (NC), Hon’ble National Commission has observed thus :-

“17. We fully agree with the reasonings given by the State Commission, that in the application no cause whatsoever has been shown as to why there was delay of 43 days in filing the appeal, except that ‘due to some unavoidable circumstances there is delay of 43 days’. Now what is this, ‘some unavoidable circumstances” has not been explained at all. Be that as it may, the aforesaid reason by any stretch of imagination, cannon be said to be a sufficient cause. Moreover, a valuable right has accrued in favour of respondent, which cannot be brushed aside lightly.”

11. In Sr. Superintendent of Post Offices & Anr. v. Modi (HUF), 2016 (2) CPR 577 (NC), Hon’ble National Commission, has observed that “Inordinate delay of 305 days in filing of Revision Petition cannot be condoned.”

12. In Bappanand Narshimman Annu v. Hirmanidevi G.S. Gupta & Ors., 2016 (4) CPR 447 (NC), Hon’ble National Commission has observed thus :-

“8. Tested on the touchstone of the broad principles laid down in a catena of decisions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, viz., ‘sufficient cause’ cannot be construed liberally if negligence, inaction or lack of bonafides are attributable to the party, praying for exercise of such discretion in its favour, and that when a statute provides for a particular period of limitation, it has to be applied with all its rigors, as an unlimited limitation leads to a sense of uncertainty, we are of the view that the State Commission has not committed any jurisdictional error in coming to the conclusion that a case for condonation of the said delay was not made out.”

13. In Reliance General Insurance Company Limited v. Shri Pariyojna Nirman Private Limited, IV (2016) CPJ 178 (NC), Hon’ble National Commission has observed thus :-

“Consumer Protection Act, 1986 – Sections 24A, 21(b) – Limitation – Delay of 127 days – Condonation – Expression ‘sufficient cause’ cannot be erased from Section 5 of Limitation Act by adopting excessive liberal approach – There must be some cause which can be termed as ‘sufficient one’ for the purpose of delay condonation – Officer of the Insurance Company should not sit over the documents – They should decide the case immediately – Delay not condoned.”

14. In Division Railway Manager & Ors. v. Sanjay Kumar Singh, 2016 (4) CPR 288 (NC), Hon’ble National Commission has observed that “A government department cannot be treated differently from ordinary litigant.”

15. We have perused the record of the District Forum. The District Forum sent notice to the appellant (O.P.) through registered post for 30.04.2016, which was duly served and the acknowledgement was received by the District Forum. In the acknowledgment the seal of the office of the appellant (O.P.) is affixed and concerned employee of the appellant (O.P.) has put his signature in the acknowledgement. It appears that the notice was duly served upon the appellant (O.P.), but even then none appeared for the appellant (O.P.), therefore, the appellant (O.P.) was proceeded ex-parte by the District Forum. The copy of impugned order was sent to the appellant (O.P.) on 27.07.2016. According to the appellant (O.P.) it received copy of the impugned order on 01.08.2016. The appellant (O.P.) was required to file the instant appeal within 30 days from receipt of copy of the order, whereas the instant appeal has been filed on 08.11.2016. The appellant (O.P.) is an Insurance Company and it should not spend time in making internal correspondence. A government department cannot be treated differently from ordinary litigant. The appellant (O.P.) is Public Undertaking, therefore, it is not entitled to get different treatment than ordinary litigant, it means that the status of the appellant (O.P.) is same as of ordinary litigant. No satisfactory explanation has been given by the appellant (O.P.) why it could not file the appeal within prescribed time. The facts of the judgments cited by the appellant (O.P.) is quite different from the facts of the instant case, therefore, it is not helpful to the appellant (O.P.)

16. It must be borne in mind that Consumer Protection Act, 1986 lays down its own period of limitation. In the instant case, looking to the application filed by the appellant (O.P) for condonation of delay in filing the appeal and affidavit of Shri Aneesh Bhaskaran, Senior Legal Executive of Royal Sundaram Alliance Insurance Co. Ltd., filed in support of the said application, it appears that the reasons assigned by the appellant (O.P.) in the said application regarding delay in filing the appeal, are not satisfactory and delay has not been explained properly, therefore, the appeal is barred by limitation by 86 days, which cannot be condoned.

17. Thus, the application filed by the appellant (O.P.) for condonation of delay in filing the appeal, is hereby rejected. Consequently, the appeal also stands dismissed.

Final Result : Dismissed

_______________

Cases Referred

Anshul Aggarwal Vs. New Okhla Industrial Development Authority, (2011) 4 CPJ 63 SC
Bappanand Narshimman Annu Vs. Hirmanidevi G.S. Gupta, (2016) 4 CPR 447 NC
Basavraj Vs. The Spl. Land Acquisition Officer, (2013) AIR SCW 6510
Cordcon Builders Pvt. Ltd. Vs. Valerian Anthony Diago, (2015) 2 CPR 517 NC
Division Railway Manager Vs. Sanjay Kumar Singh, (2016) 4 CPR 288 NC
Lachoo @ Laxminarayan Vs. Proprietory : Verma Watch House Shyam Talkies, (2015) 4 CPR 337 NC
Lala Matadin Vs. A. Narayanan, AIR 1970 SC 1953
M/s. Samia International Builders P. Ltd. Vs. Neeta Rani, (2016) 1 CPR 19 NC
Maniben Devraj Shah Vs. Municipal Corporation of Brihan Mumbai, AIR 2012 SC 1629 : (2012) AIR SCW 2412
Manindra Land and Building Corporation Ltd. Vs. Bhootnath Banerjee, AIR 1964 SC 1336
Parimal Vs. Veena alias Bharti, AIR 2011 SC 1150 : (2011) AIR SEW 1233
Reliance General Insurance Company Limited Vs. Shri Pariyojna Nirman Private Limited, (2016) 4 CPJ 178 NC
Rituraj Construction Vs. Prakash Ramchandra Kale, (2016) 1 CPJ 272 NC

Sr. Superintendent of Post Offices Vs. Modi HUF , (2016) 2 CPR 577 NC