At, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission NCDRC
By, THE HONOURABLE MRS. JUSTICE REKHA GUPTA
By, PRESIDING MEMBER & THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE ANUP K THAKUR
For the Petitioners: Ajit Warrier, Anish Gupta, Vaibhav Aggarwal, Advocates. For the Respondents: ------
Rekha Gupta, Presiding Member
The present revision petition has been filed against the judgment dated 27th May 2017 of the Tripura State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Agartala (‘the State Commission’) in First Appeal no. 25 of 2017.
2. The facts of the case as per the respondent / complainant are that the respondent no.1, Dr. Babul Roy and his wife, respondent no.2 purchased two air tickets from the petitioners/ opposite parties, IndiGo for travelling from Agartala to Delhi on 28.03.2016 for their journey to Srinagar. They had confirmed air tickets by Go Air flight for travelling from Delhi to Srinagar on 29.03.2016. The respondents carried all necessities for their entire journey period with them. Two pieces of luggage were handed over which were booked with the petitioner no.2 at Agartala airport. When they reached in Delhi, they found one of the luggage piece was missing and in the said luggage the respondent had goods worth Rs.90,540/-.
3. Accordingly, a complaint was made to the IndiGo Authority in the Customer Care Desk, but the missing luggage was not returned. On 29.03.2016 at 06.00 p.m., respondent no.1 sent one SMS to the Customer Care of IndiGo stating as follows:-
“Service provided by Indigo Authority is very poor because I flew on 28.03.2016 Flight No.6E 672 from Agartala to Delhi handed over my luggage at Agartala but at Delhi I could not find my luggage at Belt No.3 and instantly I informed & lodged complaint to Customer Care Desk. But it is a matter o
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regret that after lapse of 27 hours I did not get my luggage…….. Babul Roy”.However, there was no response from the petitioner/ Aviation Company till 16.04.2016. Again, another e-mail was sent to the Aviation Company, but no satisfactory response was received from the petitioner/ Aviation Company. Being aggrieved by the action of the petitioner/ Aviation Company, the respondents filed an application under section 12 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, before the District Forum, West Tripura, Agartala to pay compensation of Rs.90,540/- on account of loss of goods and Rs.4,00,000/- on account of mental agony, harassment, sufferings, inconvenience and discomfort during the travelling period.4. The petitioner/ Aviation Company appeared and filed their written statement denying the claim of the respondents. It was stated that information of loss of baggage was given in time. Rs.4,200/- was offered for loss of baggage. As per terms and conditions, respondents were not entitled to get any more. Thus, the complaint petition was liable to be dismissed.5. The District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, West Tripura, Agartala, vide its order dated 06.12.2016 while allowing the complaint held as under:“The District Forum after considering the documents produced by the complainants namely, PIR, Air ticket, list of articles, feedback comments of service, email copies as well as the evidence of the parties passed the impugned judgment directing the opposite parties IndiGo to pay an amount of Rs.59,200/- (Rs.4,200/- as compensation as per their Rule and in addition to that Rs.50,000/- towards the cost of the dresses lost with the baggage for deficiency of service and also to pay Rs.5,000/- as cost of litigation)”.6. Aggrieved by the order of the District Forum, the petitioners/ opposite parties filed an appeal before the State Commission. The State Commission vide its impugned order dated 27.06.2017 while dismissing the appeal on limitation observed as under:“12. We have gone through the condonation petition wherein it is specifically stated that the opposite parties received the impugned judgment in time and the same was also communicated to the corporate office situated at Gurgaon, Haryana in time. Nowhere in the petition stated when the corporate office after receipt of the impugned judgment directed their Counsel to prepare the appeal and when the appeal was prepared and sent to corporate office for approval except the ground that the appellants were in the process of locating a local lawyer in Agartala to represent the appellants in the present appeal, no other reasonable grounds are mentioned in the condonation petition. It is also not mentioned that when the appellant-opposite parties were in process of locating a local lawyer in Agartala. There is no doubt that the sufficient cause has to be considered liberally subject to the explanation is reasonable. It is also by this time held by the Honble Apex Court that day-to-day -6- 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. explanation is not necessary, but explanation must be reasonable. The appellant-opposite parties is not a rustic litigant, rather an eminent company who are appearing in so many matters before the so many Courts including the Consumer Courts. Therefore, it cannot be said that they are not aware how to explain the delay in a condonation petition. Purchase of demand draft on 16.01.2017 for deposit the statutory deposit itself shows that the opposite parties are very much aware about the statutory limit of preferring an appeal and they could have contacted with their Station Manager at Agartala for engaging a lawyer instead of taking any other process of locating a local lawyer in Agartala as stated in Paragraph-4 of the condonation petition.13. After perusal of the condonation petition we are of the considered opinion that the appellant-opposite parties were not so serious for preferring appeal in time and not only that, no reasonable explanation has been given in the condonation petition except what stated in the preceding paragraph of this order.14. Sufficient cause is the cause for which the opposite parties could not be blamed for their filing of appeal in time. The meaning of the word "sufficient" is "adequate" or "enough", inasmuch as may be necessary to answer the purpose intended. In other way, it can be said that "sufficient cause" means that the party should not have acted in a negligent manner or there was a want of bona fide on its part in view of the facts and circumstances of a case or it cannot be alleged that the party has "not acted diligently" or "remained inactive".15. As per settled law, culled out from various judicial decisions, the above expression, 'sufficient cause' though deserves to receive a liberal construction, yet, a just and equitable balance has to be maintained between the right secured by the respondent as a result of the expiry of the prescribed period of limitation and the injustice of depriving the appellants of adjudication of their grievances on the merits of their appeal for causes beyond their reasonable control, which means the cause is bona fide and beyond the control of the appellants. There is no hard and fast rules, what should be the 'sufficient cause' in a given case.For the reasons stated above, we are of the opinion that the delay in filing the connected appeal has not been properly explained as required and the same is also not bona fide. Accordingly, the condonation petition is dismissed and in consequent thereto, the appeal also stands dismissed. No order as to costs”.7. Hence, the present revision petition.8. The present revision petition has been filed with a delay of ten days. We have heard the learned counsel for the petitioner. He contended that there is a delay of 153 days in filing the appeal before the State Commission. He has also stated that the State Commission should have liberally interpreted the laws on the matter and condoned the delay. To support his contention, the learned counsel for the petitioner has relied on the following citations:1. Aditya Ghosh, President and Director, Interglobe Aviation Limtied (INDIGO) and Anr. Vs Yogendra Verma decided on 22.12.2017 in RP no. 3802 of 2017;2. Western Railway, through General Manager, Churchgate Railway Station vs Vinod Sharma through his wife and Constitute Attorney decided on 18.01.2017 in FA no. 451 of 2015; and3. N Balakrishnan vs M Krishnamurthy decided on 03.09.1998 – (1998) 7 SCC 1239. The facts of the cases cited above are different from the present case and are not applicable to the case on hand.10. We have gone through application for condonation of delay filed before the State Commission. In the application the following reasons have been given for the delay of 153 days:3. There is a delay of 153 day in filing the present appeal. It is respectfully submitted that the appellants duly received the copy of the impugned order and sent the same to the corporate office of the Appellant no.1 which is situated at Gurgaon, Haryana. It is respectfully submitted that upon receiving the direction to prepare the appeal by the corporate office of the Appellant no. 1, appeal was duly prepared by the counsel for the appellant and sent to the corporate office of the appellant no.1 for necessary approval.4. In addition to the above, the appellants respectfully submit that the appellants were in the process of locating a local lawyer in Agartala to represent the appellants in the present appeal and that also took some time.5. Therefore, it is humbly submitted only due to above stated reasons there is a slight delay in filing the present appeal.11. The State Commission has correctly observed that the reasons given for the condonation of delay are vague and casual. There are no dates and no specific reasons given to explain the long delay of 153 days. The petitioners cannot justify the delay on the grounds that it was caused due to difficulty in transmission of documents and lack of communication with the North Eastern State of Tripura, i.e., Agartala as the petitioner runs an airline and has services between Delhi and Agartala. Further, there is no indication in the application for condonation of delay as to when the impugned order was received by the Corporate Office and when the matter was sent to the lawyer in Agartala to represent the appellants.12. Coming to the delay in filing the revision petition, the reasons given in the application for condonation of delay are as under:4. It is respectfully submitted that the local counsel of the petitioners applied for the certified copy of the order dated 27.06.2017 which was provided by the Registry of the State Commission on 12.07.2017. It is further submitted that there was some delay in transmission of the physical copy of the order to the corporate office of the petitioner no. 1 as all the courier services at Agartala were suspended due to certain communal riots.5. On 06.09.2017, the petitioners received the physical copy of the order dated 27.06.2017 passed by the State Commission at the corporate office of the petitioner no. 1 situated at Gurgaon, Haryana.6. Immediately after receiving the physical copy of the said order, the petitioners herein instructed their counsel to draft a revision petition to be filed before this Commission.7. The petitioners respectfully submit that due to the aforesaid reasons the present revision petition could not be filed within the period of limitation and there is a small delay of 1o days which was unintentional, bonafide and beyond the control of the petitioners.13. It is indeed surprising to note that even after the appeal was dismissed by the State Commission, the petitioners were not vigilant enough to the file the revision petition in time. They have taken the same excuse of transmission of orders and documents to justify their delay.14. At the same time, it is also well settled that “sufficient cause” with regard to condonation of delay in each case, is a question of fact.15. In the matter of Anshul Aggarwal vs. New Okhla Industrial Development Authority, IV (2011) CPJ 63 (SC), the Apex Court has highlighted the object of Consumer Protection Act particularly expeditious and in expensive remedy to the consumers.“It is also apposite to observe that while deciding an application filed in such cases for condonation of delay, the Court has to keep in mind that the special period of limitation has been prescribed under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 for filing appeals and revisions in consumer matters and the object of expeditious adjudication of the consumer disputes will get defeated if this Court was to entertain highly belated petitions filed against the orders of the Consumer Foras”.16. In Balwant Singh Vs. Jagdish Singh & Ors., (Civil Appeal no. 1166 of 2006), decided by the Apex Court on 08.07.2010 it was held:“The party should show that besides acting bonafide, it had taken all possible steps within its power and control and had approached the Court without any unnecessary delay. The test is whether or not a cause is sufficient to see whether it could have been avoided by the party by the exercise of due care and attention. [Advanced Law Lexicon, P. Ramanatha Aiyar, 3rd Edition, 2005]”.17. Similarly in Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd., vs Kailash Devi and Ors. AIR 1994 Punjab and Haryana 45, it has been laid down that:“There is no denying the fact that the expression sufficient cause should normally be construed liberally so as to advance substantial justice but that would be in a case where no negligence or inaction or want of bona fide is imputable to the applicant. The discretion to condone the delay is to be exercised judicially i.e. one of is not to be swayed by sympathy or benevolence.”18. In R.B. Ramlingam Vs. R.B. Bhavaneshwari, 2009 (2) Scale 108, it has been observed:“We hold that in each and every case the Court has to examine whether delay in filing the special appeal leave petitions stands properly explained. This is the basic test which needs to be applied. The true guide is whether the petitioner has acted with reasonable diligence in the prosecution of his appeal/petition.”19. In Ram Lal and Others v. Rewa Coalfields Ltd., AIR 1962 Supreme Court 361, it has been observed that:“It is, however, necessary to emphasize that even after sufficient cause has been shown a party is not entitled to the condonation of delay in question as a matter of right. The proof of a sufficient cause is a discretionary jurisdiction vested in the Court by Section 5. If ‘sufficient cause’ is not proved nothing further has to be done; the application for condonation has to be dismissed on that ground alone. If ‘sufficient cause’ is shown then the Court has to enquire whether in its discretion it should condone the delay. This aspect of the matter naturally introduces the consideration of all relevant facts and it is at this stage that diligence of the party or its bonafides may fall for consideration; but the scope of the inquiry while exercising the discretionary power after sufficient cause is shown would naturally be limited only to such facts as the Court may regard as relevant.”19. In view of the discussion above, we find no jurisdictional error or material irregularity in the impugned order of the State Commission which may call for interference in exercise of powers under section 21 (b) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. Revision petition is, therefore, dismissed both on merit and on limitation.