While setting aside an order of the National Consumer Commission (NCDRC) in the case of Vibha Bakshi Gokhale vs. Gruhashilp Constructions, the Bench comprising of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Hemant Gupta of Supreme Court of India observed that dismissal of consumer complaints on technical grounds, adds the burden of litigation and defeats the purpose of ensuring justice in the consumer fora. In the said case, NCDRC had dismissed the complaint as the complainant failed to file a rejoinder and evidence within stipulated time. The Bench went on to state that orders like such detract from the very purpose for which the NCDRC has been established.
The court said that the purpose which Parliament sought to achieve by setting up the NCDRC is to protect the rights of consumers to seek access to justice under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
“We are affirmatively of the view that orders of this nature detract from the true purpose for which the NCDRC has been established. The NCDRC should have borne this in mind instead of rejecting the complaint on a technicality. Such dismissals only add to the burden of litigation and defeat the purpose of ensuring justice in the consumer fora.” The Bench said.
The Bench observed that the marginal delays are not being condoned by the NCDRC on the ground that the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 specified a period of time within which a consumer complaint has to be disposed of.
The Court further added that “Though the Act stipulates a period for disposing of a consumer complaint, it is also a sobering reflection that complaints cannot be disposed of due to non-availability of resources and infrastructure. In this background, it is harsh to penalise a bona fide litigant for marginal delays that may occur in the judicial process. The consumer fora should bear this in mind so that the ends of justice are not defeated.”