Businesses that resort to unnecessary appeals just to delay the process of justice before the consumer courts had better beware. The apex consumer court (National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission) has now begun to impose steep financial penalties against such practices.
Four months ago, the commission slapped punitive damages of Rs 30,000 on a bank for filing appeals without any merit. What it said in its order, set the tone for tackling such appeals in future.
“No leniency,” said the commission, “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 forums”. (Citibank NA vs Pradeep Kumar Patri RP NO 2587 of 2011) Then on January 6, in Dwarka Dheesh Investment vs NK Bhatia, the commission once again expressed its displeasure over ‘bogus and frivolous’ appeals filed just to waste the time of the commission.
Observing that the revision petitioner had no intention of complying with the order of the forum, but was only trying to delay the adjudication, the commission asked the investment company to pay Rs 25,000 to the Consumer Legal Aid Account .
Next on January 11, in RCI India Pvt Ltd vs Parthasarthy, it criticised the time-share company for filing an appeal (revision petition) ‘just to waste the time of the commission’ and ordered that costs of Rs 20,000 be paid into the Consumer Legal Aid Account.
This toughening attitude of the apex consumer court against frivolous appeals should force trade and industry to think twice before routinely filing appeals against orders that go against them, just to prolong the adjudication process and harass the consumer.
The commission’s criticism is particularly aimed at those respondents (service providers/ manufacturers/retailers) who deliberately do not appear before the court and then ignore the ex-parte order until faced with a non-bailable warrant for their arrest and then start appealing against the orders.
The imposition of punitive damages (should have been done long ago) should considerably reduce baseless and mischievous appeals at least now, and then eventually reduce the time taken for adjudication of complaints by the consumer courts.
It should also force trade and industry to develop a healthy respect for consumers and the consumer courts.
I must mention another positive development in recent times.
Responding to the criticism of the Supreme Court, the National Commission now does not use its revisional powers unless there is prima facie jurisdictional error or miscarriage of justice in the order of the lower consumer courts. This should also eventually discourage routine appeals .
Narendra Ahuja: I am a 74-year old man with multiple diseases — diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problem with three angioplasties and five stents in my heart. I filed a case before the consumer forum against an airline five years ago and won the case after three years.
The airline filed an appeal before the state commission, where four hearings have taken place in the last two years. In the last hearing on December 16, the opposite party did not come and the case was adjourned to July 16, despite my repeated protests. How can I get an early hearing?
Answer: The Consumer Protection Regulation 2005 clearly states, “The cases filed by or against senior citizens, physically challenged persons, widows and persons suffering from serious ailments shall be listed and disposed of on a priority basis.”
You can find the regulation on the website of the commission (www.consumercom.nic.in) So please send a complaint to the national commission — you can address it to the registrar — about the delay and I am sure that the commission will ensure that your case is heard and decided expeditiously.