Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): C. Vishwanath (Presiding Member), held that since the Insurance Company itself insured the complainant’s vehicle and the vehicle had been stolen during the currency of the Policy and the Police were informed immediately, the Insurance Company could not repudiate the claim.

The instant revision petition was filed under Section 21(b) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 against the Order passed by Rajasthan State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.

Facts of the case

Respondent obtained an Insurance Policy from the petitioner for his Car being temporary registration for a sum of Rs 6,17,800.

In the night of 28-07-2011, Complainant’s car was stolen from Geeta Guest House, Jodhpur. Police could not trace the vehicle and submitted a negative final report. Complainant submitted an insurance claim with the Opposite Party/Insurance Company. Petitioner/Opposite Party repudiated the claim, on the ground that intimation of theft of the vehicle was given to the Insurance Company with delay, which was in violation of the Policy condition and though temporary registration of the vehicle expired on 19-07-2011, the Complainant did not get the vehicle permanently registered. Thirdly, the Complainant left the vehicle unattended outside the guesthouse, in violation of the Policy condition.

District Forum dismissed the complaint stating “as at the time of the theft the vehicle is not registered, there was no deficiency in service on the part of the Opposite Party”.

Against the order of the District Forum, the Complainant preferred an Appeal before the State Commission and State Commission set aside the order of the District Forum while allowing the appeal.

Aggrieved by the State Commission’s Order, Opposite Party/Insurance Company preferred the present Revision Petition.

Analysis and Decision

Core issue for the adjudication was in regard to the registration of the vehicle after expiry of temporary registration.

Since the Petitioner/Insurance Company had received the insurance premium and there was no violation of any specific condition in the Insurance Policy, the Insurance Company was liable to indemnify the insured for the loss suffered by the insured.

Though plying a vehicle on road without registration is a violation of provisions of Motor Vehicle Act, the Competent Authority to take action against a non-registered vehicle is the Police and other Government authorities. Insurance Company after accepting the premium, cannot escape from its liability and repudiate the claim on this technical ground.

Commission in view of the instant matter stated that:

The temporary registration of the vehicle expired on 19-07-2011 and the car got stolen on 28-07-2011, mere 9 days later. The Motor Vehicle Act does provide for registration of vehicle after its expiry on payment of certain fee.

Commission held that when the Insurance Company itself insured the complainant’s vehicle and the vehicle had been stolen during the currency of the Policy and the Police was informed immediately, the Insurance Company cannot repudiate the claim of the Complainant on a technical ground.

In view of the above-discussion, State Commission’s Order was justified and the same did not suffer from any illegality, therefore revision petition was dismissed. [United India Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Sushil Kumar Godara, 2020 SCC OnLine NCDRC 494, decided on 11-12-2020]


Advocates for the parties:

For the petitioner: Ms Suman Bagga, Advocate

For the Respondent: NEMO

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): Justice V.K. Jain (Presiding Member), observed that Executing Court cannot go behind the decree and therefore, the State Commission has no option but to execute the order passed in the Consumer Complaints.

It has been stated that three Consumer Complaints were instituted before the State Commission against five persons including the appellant.

The above-stated Consumer Complaints were allowed by the State Commission against all the OPs including the appellant.

The order passed by the State Commission was not complied, therefore execution proceedings were initiated against the OPs in the Consumer Complaints including the appellant. Non-Bailable Arrest Warrants were issued by the State Commission, but the same was not executed and hence they were again issued and sent to SSP, Mohali.

Decision

Bench stated that in its opinion, the Consumer Complaints were allowed against all the OPs including the appellant, the appropriate remedy for him was to challenge the order passed by the State Commission in the Consumer Complaint.

Executing Court cannot go behind the decree and therefore, the State Commission has no option but to execute the order passed in the Consumer Complaints irrespective of whether the appellant had resigned from the Directorship of the company or not.

Since an Executing Court cannot go behind the decree, it was not open to the State Commission nor is it open to this Commission to examine, in execution proceedings, as to whether the appellant had resigned from the Directorship of the company as is claimed by him or not. Similarly, neither the State Commission acting in the execution proceedings nor this Commission, while hearing an appeal arising out of the execution proceedings, can go into this question.

Therefore, in view of the above, no relief to the appellant could be granted.

However, the Commission permitted the appellant to apply to the State Commission to be released on his personal bond if he is unable to arrange a surety. If such a request is made, it will be examined by the State Commission on its own merits. [Hardayal Singh Mann v. Inderjit Singh, Appeal Execution No. 60 of 2020, decided on 29-10-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: A Division Bench of S. Manikumar and Shaji P. Chaly, JJ., while deciding the Constitutional validity of the Kerala State Commission for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes Act, 2007, dismissed the writ petition making significant observations.

Brief Facts

Aggrieved by the inaction on the part of the respondents in honouring a claim made by the petitioner for reimbursement of travel allowances which he had to incur in connection with the hearings before the State Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes Commission at Thiruvananthapuram, instant writ petition for the issuance of mandamus has been filed against the State Government, Kerala. Further, the petitioner seeks to issue a similar relief against the Subordinate Courts so to implement speedy trial provided under Section 14 of the Atrocities Act by taking up the Atrocity cases and related matters immediately after the custody and bail cases. Furthermore, the writ petition seeks to declare the Kerala State Commission for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes Act, 2007 and the rules framed thereunder as unconstitutional on the ground of inconsistency and repugnancy with the Central Act. 

Issue

  1. Whether the State Government can form rules departing from central rules and thereby, deny rights conferred by the Central Government?
  2. Whether the State Government can disobey the rules framed by the Central Government for the benefit of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and decline to make provisions in the budgets thereby causing hardship to the poor people?
  3. Whether the subordinate courts can violate the law to the disadvantage of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes by denying speedy trial though provided in Section 14 of the Act?

Contentions

The counsel for the petitioners made a submission on the following grounds;

  1. That the Central Act and the rules framed thereunder are binding on the State Government and it is, therefore, obligatory for them to act in consonance of the same.
  2. That the rules framed by the State Government do not fall under Rule 11, 12 or 15 of the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995, as prescribed by the Central Government.
  3. That the State Government has failed to comply with the directive laid down under Rule 14, which mandates the State to allocate a certain sum in the Annual State budget for the SC/ST community.
  4. That the State is incompetent to make any law or enumerate any rule on the said subject, following which, the Kerala State SC/ST Commission Act, 2007 and the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995 are liable to be declared as unconstitutional. The petitioners further cited, Barai v. Henry, (1983) 1 SCC 177 and Thirumuruga Hirupananda Variar v. State of Tamil Nadu, (1996) 3 SCC 15.
  5. That the District Magistrates and other similar officers callously neglected the duties prescribed for providing facilities and for making payments under the Schedule and the rules.
  6. That the lower courts do not implement speedy trials, as provided under Section 14 of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, thereby causing hardship to the victims and witnesses, etc.

The counsel for the respondents submitted as follows;

  1. That the petitioner has filed complaints before the Kerala State SC/ST Commission seeking Travel Allowance(TA)/Dearance Allowance(DA) claims, including hotel bill, room rent, etc. for payment.
  2. That as per the Kerala State Commission for the Scheduled Castes and scheduled tribes Act, 2007 and the rules framed thereunder, there is no provision for paying TA or DA to the victims and witnesses who appear before the Commission, for the purpose of enquiry into the complaints. The Commission has no such fund to consider the claim.
  3. That the Commission is empowered to conduct an enquiry into cases where there are allegations of a miscarriage of justice during investigation and hence, the SC/ST complainants, who register complaints/petition before the State Commission, are not entitled to get TA/DA, when they appear before the Commission under any of the provisions of the Kerala State Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act, 2007 and the rules framed thereunder.
  4. Cases under sections 3(1) and 3(2) of Prevention of Atrocities Act are registered in Police Stations and Special Cells are constituted for that purpose. Further, as mentioned in the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995, the District Magistrate, Sub Divisional Magistrate or other Executive Magistrate is the authority, liable for payment of such allowances to the victims of atrocity/dependent in the matter of investigation and trial.
  5. That even though the Kerala State Commission for Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes has the powers of a civil court, with regard to its function under Section 9, Rule 11 of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995, is not applicable to the Commission.
  6. That Four Special Courts for the trial of offences under the SC/ST (POA) Act cases, have been established at Manjeri, Mananthavady (Kalpetta), Kottarakkara (Kollam) and Mannarkkad (Palakkad). The work turn-out in the four Special Courts for the trial of offences under SC/ST(POA) Act cases are being monitored on a monthly basis by the Judges holding the administrative charges of the respective districts and necessary directions and guidelines are being issued for the speedy trial and disposal of those cases.

Observations

The bench made significant observations with respect to State’s competency to legislate in presence of a central law on the same subject, separation of powers and mutual interaction between the three organs in a democratic setup and instances where the Commission is obligated to make reimbursements. It cited several case laws and observations with respect to the above enumerated hereby;

1. Bhim Singh v. Union of India, (2010) 5 SCC 538;

“While observing that the Constitution does not strictly prohibit overlapping of functions as this is inevitable in the modern parliamentary democracy, the Constitution prohibits exercise of functions of another branch which results in wresting away of the regime of constitutional accountability. Only when accountability is preserved, there will be no violation of principle of separation of powers. Constitution not only requires and mandates that there should be right decisions that govern us, but equal care has to be taken that the right decisions are made by the right body and the institution. This is what gives legitimacy, be it legislation, a policy decision or a court adjudication.”

2.  V.K. Naswa v. Home Secretary, Union of India, (2012) 11 SCC 42;

“It is outside the power of judicial review to issue directions to the legislature to enact a law in a particular manner, for the Constitution does not permit the courts to direct and advice the executive in matters of policy. Parliament, as the legislature, exercises this power to enact a law and no outside authority can issue a particular piece of legislation. It is only in exceptional cases where there is a vacuum and non-existing position that the judiciary, in exercise of its constitutional power, steps in and provides a solution till the legislature comes forward to perform its role.”  [Also refer; Manoj Narula v. UOI, (2014) 9 SCC 1 and Supreme Court Employee Welfare Assn. v. UOI, (1989) 4 SCC 187]

 3. Regina (Countryside Alliance) v. Attorney General, (2008) 1 AC 719;

 “…The democratic process is liable to be subverted if, on a question of moral and political judgment, opponents of the Act achieve through the courts what they could not achieve in Parliament.”

4.State of Himachal Pradesh v. Satpal Saini, (2017) 11 SCC 42;

“Reference was made to Supreme Court Employees’ Welfare Association, (1989) 4 SCC 187, that no writ of mandamus can be issued to the legislature to enact a particular legislation nor can such direction be issued to the executive which exercises the powers to make Rules in the nature of subordinate legislation.”

With respect to instances where the State Government is liable to reimburse the expenses incurred by the complainant, the Court highlighted the following points;

  1. Every victim of atrocity or his/her dependent and witnesses shall be paid expense from his place of residence to the place of investigation or trial of offence under the Act.
  2. The District Magistrate or any other Executive Magistrate shall make necessary arrangements for providing transport facilities or reimbursement of full payment to the victims of atrocity and witnesses for visiting the investigating officer, Superintendent of Police/Deputy Superintendent of Police, District Magistrate or any other Executive Magistrate.
  3. Every woman witness, the victim of atrocity or her dependent being a woman or a minor, a person more than sixty years of age and a person having 40 % or more disability shall be entitled to be accompanied by an attendant of her/his choice. The attendant shall also be paid traveling and maintenance expenses as applicable to the witness or the victim of atrocity when called upon during hearing, investigation and trial of an offence under the Act.
  4. The witness, the victim of atrocity or his/her dependent and the attendant shall be paid daily maintenance for the days he/she is away from the place of his/her residence or stay during investigation, hearing and trial of an offence, at such rates but not less than the minimum wages, as may be fixed by the State Government for the agricultural labourers.
  5. In addition to daily maintenance expenses, the witness, the victim of atrocity (or his/her dependent), and the attendant shall also be paid diet expenses at such rates, as may be fixed by the State Government from time to time.
  6. The payment of traveling allowance, daily allowance, maintenance expenses and reimbursement of transport facilities shall be made immediately or not later than three days by the District Magistrate or the Sub-Divisional Magistrate or any other Executive Magistrate to the victims, their dependents/attendant and witnesses for the days they visit the investigating officer or in-charge police station or hospital authorities or Superintendent of Police, Deputy Superintendent of Police or District Magistrate or any other officer concerned or the Special Court.
  7. When an offence has been committed under Section 3 of the Act, the District Magistrate or the Sub-Divisional Magistrate or any other Executive Magistrate shall reimburse the payment of medicines, special medical consultation, blood transfusion, replacement of essential clothing, meals and fruits provided to the victim of atrocity.

 Decision

While upholding the Constitutional validity of the State Act, the bench observed: “neither the Commission nor the State Government, is obligated to create a specific fund for reimbursement of the expenses, incurred by the complainant/witnesses for their appearance, in relation to inquiry and examination of a complaint by the Commission constituted under Section 3 of the Kerala State Commission for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes Act, 2007, and such fund is required to be created by the State Government, only in the case of investigation or trial.”

It was further said that, the submissions made by the petitioner are not sustainable and cannot be countenanced, as there is no derogation or inconsistency between the Central and the State Rules. [M.P. Chothy v. State of Kerala, 2020 SCC OnLine Ker 4254, decided on 29-09-2020]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): The Bench of Justice V.K. Jain (Presiding Member) while deciding the issues revolving around purchase of a residential flat, rejected the instant appeal preferred by Magnolia Infrastructure, after being aggrieved by the Order passed by the State Commission to hand over the constructed property to the complainants.

The complainants entered into a MoU with the appellant, for the purchase of a residential flat for a consideration of Rs 40,26,200 by paying an initial amount of Rs 12,45,183. According to the agreement, the area of the flat had to be 1114 sq. feet and the possession was to be handed over by June 2015, with a grace period of six months available to the builder. However, the size of the flat was contested to be smaller than the agreed size by the complainant. The complainant further stated that and the construction of the flat was incomplete, therefore, the complainant went to the State Commission, who found these contestations to be genuine and legible and ordered the builders to pay the compensation for the alleged violation of the agreement. The appellants (builders) were represented by Sanjoy Kumar Ghosh and Barun Prasad, while the respondent (complainant) appeared for himself before the Commission. The counsel for the appellant challenged the State Commission’s Order by contesting the area of the flat to be of the agreed size and the certificate/completion certificate of the flat allotted to the complainant.

Commission decided that the area measurement conducted by the person appointed by the State Commission was correct and that there was actual shortage in the area of the flat as the constructed flat’s size was found to be 997 sq. feet. For the second issue, the Commission observed that the flat was already constructed and lying vacant thereby serving no purpose.

Since, the State Commission is yet to verify that whether Rajarhat Municipal Corporation is competent to issue the occupancy certificate and whether had actually issued the said occupancy certificate dated 21-07-2014, the Commission held that the possession of the residential flat should be handed over to the complainant till this question is decided by the State Commission. [Mangolia Infrastructure Development Ltd. v. Sandipan Santra, FA No. 2084 of 2018, decided on 14-07-2020]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): A Division Bench of S.M. Kantikar, Dinesh Singh, Members, dismissed a revision petition filed against the order of the State Commission whereby the appeal of appellants was dismissed on the ground of merits as well as delay.

The main issue that arose before the Commission was whether the appeal was maintainable under Section 21(b) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (COPRA).

The Commission observed that the order passed by the state commission was well-appraised and well-reasoned. The state commission did not find just and reasonable cause for the delay in filing the appeal and the same was written in the order in a proper manner. The appellant had caused an unreasonable delay of 221 days in filing the appeal before the state commission. Further, the order of the state commission also states that the appellants did not approach the forum with clean hands. The Commission also observed that in order to exercise revisional jurisdiction under Section 21(b) of the COPRA, there must be a jurisdictional error or legal principle ignored or material irregularity in the order of the lower forum.

The Commission held that in the instant case the order passed by the state commission did not suffer from any form of irregularity as required under Section 21(b) of the COPRA. Resultantly, no interference by the Commission was required and hence the revision petition was dismissed by the Commission. [Agarwal Packers & Movers DRS Group v. Dibeyendu Pal, 2018 SCC OnLine NCDRC 418, order dated 01-11-2018]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): A Division Bench of Dr S.M. Kantikar and Dinesh Singh, Members, dismissed a revision petition filed against the order of the State Commission.

The petitioners, in this case, had purchased a car in the name of their company Harmony Colonizers (P) Ltd. from respondent and it suddenly stopped one day after 4 years of its purchase. Thereafter, respondent charged a sum of Rs 3,95,190 as repair charges, which were paid by the petitioner under protest. The petitioner then filed a complaint before the District Forum, claiming deficiency of services on the part of respondent and the same was allowed. The State Commission reversed the order of the district forum on the ground that complainants do not fit into the definition of consumer for the purpose of Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

The main issue that arose for consideration was whether the petitioners fall under the definition of consumer for the purpose of Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

The Commission observed that as stated by the State Commission, the petitioner failed to provide cogent evidence to prove that the car was purchased for their personal use. It further observed that in order to interfere with State Commission’s order there must be a jurisdictional error, or grave error in appreciating the evidence, or ignorance of a legal or miscarriage of justice. None of the elements were present in the instant case.

The Commission held that the petitioners were not consumers under the Act and were attempting to misuse the statutory processes provided for better protection of the interest of consumers to obtain wrong gains and to create ‘nuisance value’ qua the respondents. It was further held that the petition filed was frivolous and vexatious and hence it was dismissed with costs of Rs 25,000 imposed on petitioners for filing a frivolous petition.[Suresh Singla v. Jaycee Automobiles (P) Ltd.,2018 SCC OnLine NCDRC 375, order dated 23-08-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Deciding whether under the Electricity Act, 2003 it is mandatory to have a judicial mind presiding the Central and State Regulatory Commissions and whether the expression “may” should be read as “shall”, the bench of J. Chelameswar and S.K. Kaul, JJ held that Section 84(2) of the said Act is only an enabling provision to appoint a High Court Judge as a Chairperson of the State Commission of the said Act and it is not mandatory to do so. It was further held:

“It is mandatory that there should be a person of law as a Member of the Commission, which requires a person, who is, or has been holding a judicial office or is a person possessing professional qualifications with substantial experience in the practice of law, who has the requisite qualifications to have been appointed as a Judge of the High Court or a District Judge.”

The Court noticed that the State Commission, though defined as a ‘Commission’ has all the ‘trappings of the Court and that:

“Once it has the ‘trappings of the Court’ and performs judicial functions, albeit limited ones in the context of the overall functioning of the Commission, still while performing such judicial functions which may be of far reaching effect, the presence of a member having knowledge of law would become necessary. The absence of a member having knowledge of law would make the composition of the State Commission such as would make it incapable of performing the functions under Section 86(1)(f) of the said Act.”

The bench said that in any adjudicatory function of the State Commission, it is mandatory for a member having the aforesaid legal expertise to be a member of the Bench. It further held that in case there is no member from law as a member of the Commission, the next vacancy arising in every State Commission shall be filled in by a Member of law as mentioned above.

To avoid any confusion, the Court made it clear that it’s verdict will apply prospectively and would not affect the orders already passed by the Commission from time to time. [State of Gujarat v. Utility User’s Welfare Association, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 368, deciding 12.04.2018]