HP SCDRC | No bar under Consumer Protection Act prohibiting filing of consumer complaint in the presence of an alternative remedy

Himachal Pradesh State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Shimla: Coram of Justice P.S. Rana (President), Vijay Pal Khachi (Member) and Sunita Sharma (Member), dismissed the appeal filed by Bharti Airtel Ltd. against the order of the District Forum whereby Bharti Airtel was directed to pay punitive compensation to one of its consumer (respondent herein).

The complainant was a user of the appellant’s services. He was downloading a file which was of size 4MB to 5MB on the internet of his mobile when he observed that the appellant company had deducted an amount of Rs 200 from his account. Thereafter, he reported the matter to the appellant who credited an amount of Rs 148 back in his main account but did not credit the remaining amount of Rs 52 and committed deficiency in service. Aggrieved thereby, he filed a complaint before the District Forum who ordered the appellant to pay Rs 52 to the complainant along with an interest at 9% per annum. In addition to this, the District Forum also ordered the appellant to pay punitive compensation and litigation cost to the complainant to the tune of Rs 2000 and Rs 4000 respectively. Feeling aggrieved against the order passed by the District Forum, Bharti Airtel Ltd. filed a present appeal before the State Commission.

The counsels for the appellants, Mr Ravinder Kumar and Mr Abhishek Sood, argued that complicated facts were involved in the complaint and complainant be relegated to the Civil Court. They further contended that there was a special remedy provided under Section 7-B of Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and jurisdiction of consumer fora was prohibited. For this, they placed reliance on Section 3 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 where remedy under the Act is an additional remedy.

The State Commission held that the order of the District Forum was strictly in accordance with the law and proved facts. On the contention of relegating the matter to the Civil Court, it was opined, “present matter could be disposed of in proper and effective manner under Consumer Protection Act, 1986 and it is not expedient in the ends of justice and on the principle of natural justice to relegate complainant to civil court.”

 The Commission held that “there is no provision under Consumer Protection Act, 1986 which bars filing of consumer complaint by consumer on the concept of alternative remedy.” It further held, “Opposite parties have received consideration amount from complainant for service rendered and present matter falls within definition of consumer as defined under section 2(d) of Consumer Protection Act, 1986.”

 In the view of the above, the Commission dismissed the appeal and affirmed the order of the District Forum.[Bharti Airtel Ltd. v. Rohit Sharma, First Appeal No. 59 of 2018, decided on 09-05-2019]

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