Date: 22 October, 2020
by Upamanyu Ganguly, ILS Law College, Pune
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 10941- 10942 of 2013
DECIDED ON: March 4, 2020
BENCH: Justice Arun Mishra, Justice Indra Banerjee, Justice Vineet Saran, Justice M.R. Shah and Justice S. Ravindra Bhat
In this case, there were two questions raised before the Court which were
(a) Whether the district forum had the power to extend the limitation period laid down by Section 13(2)(a) of the act ?
(b) What the commencing point of the limitation period would be ?
DECISION OF THE COURT
The Supreme Court decided that the District forum has no power to extent the time of Limitation for filing a response to a complaint beyond the fifteen day period in addition to the thirty day period as laid down by Section 13(2)(a) of The Act
The Court observed that the limitation period begins when the opposite party has received the notice of the complaint along with the complaint.
The Court emphasised on the fact that the Act was passed with the objective of ensuring speedy disposal of disputes.
On March 4, 2020, the Supreme Court delivered a judgment regarding the limitation period for the opposition party to file a response to a complaint and whether the District Forum has the power to extend the 45-day (30 + 15) limitation under Section 13(2)(a) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (hereon, “The Act”) in the case of New India Assurance Co. Ltd. v. Hilli Multipurpose Cold Storage Pvt. Ltd. Civil Appeal no. 10941- 10942 of 2013). In deciding the case, the court referred to multiple case laws that laid down certain important principles, such as-
Language Mandates and does not Direct- In the case of Lachmi Narain v. Union of India (1976) 2 SCC 953, the court had held that if a provision is written in negative or prohibitive language, then the provision is mandatory and not directory and in the case of Bhikraj Jaipurai v. Union of India, AIR 1962 SC 113, the court held that the mandatory nature of provisions cannot be changed due to hardships faced by a party.
Law prevails over Equity- In Popat Bahiru Govardhane v. Special Land Acquisition Officer (2013) 10 SCC 765, the court observed that the Law of Limitation may harshly affect a party, but has to be applied to full effect and cannot be challenged on equitable grounds. In the case of Laxminarayan R. Bhattad v. State of Maharashtra (2003) 5 SCC 413, the court held that “when there is a conflict between Law and Equity, the former shall prevail”