NEW INDIA ASSURANCE CO. LTD. v. HILLI MULTIPURPOSE COLD STORAGE PVT. LTD. (2020) SCC 287 - Synopsis
Team SoOLEGAL 21 Jun 2021

The Supreme Court in the following case delivered a judgment regarding the limitation period for filing a reply to a complaint under the Consumer Protection Act 1986 Act. The two issues raised in the matter were, if the district forum has the power to give extension to the limitation period mentioned under Section 13(2)(a) and what would be the beginning point of the limitation period.

Section 13(2) of the Act mirrors the goal of the legislature to accomplish the speedy redressal of consumers and to accomplish this, the assembly gives a time of just 30 days and a further time of 15 days (at the circumspection of the District Forum) to document an answer to a protest. No further time can be allowed by the District Forum after the expiry of the general time span of (45) days. This is additionally clarified upon by Section 13(2)(ii) of the Act which permits the District Forum to resolve the debate ex-parte dependent on the complainant's proof just as Section 13(3) of the Act which bans the contrary party from testing a procedure on the ground that the standards of natural justice were not clung to, whenever it is set up that the system under Section 13(2) was properly followed. The court analyzed the provision and stated that the legislature’s intention is to make 13(2) not only directory but mandatory. The court decided that there was no power with the District Forum to extend the time limit for filling a reply to a complaint surpassing the 15 day period which is given in addition to the 30 day period by the virtue of Section 13(2). The further issue raised was whether the aforementioned 30 (thirty) - day time span would initiate from the date of receipt of the notification of the objection or the date of receipt of the complaint notification joined by the complaint by the contrary party. The court held that the simultaneous reading of Section 13 and Regulation 10 it becomes obvious that a notice should be accompanied with the complaint and once the other party receives the copy it becomes eligible to file a response. Finally, the court observed that when the opposite party receives the notice and the copy of complaint together the limitation period begins. The objective of the Act which ensures speedy redressal of consumer disputes was restated by the Supreme Court.

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