At, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission NCDRC
By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE V.K. JAIN
By, PRESIDING MEMBER
For the Petitioners: Usha Nandini V. Advocate. For the Respondent: In person (Caveator).
IA/17556/2018 (for C/D)
This is an application seeking condonation of delay of 28 days in filing this revision petition. The delay according to the petitioner is happened on account of the following factors:
'5. That due to heavy rain and subsequent flood situation in Kerala, the petitioners were not able to contact the counsel and take appropriate action in proceeding with the present revision petition. However, at the end of August, they have contacted the counsel and had sent the documents for the preparatio
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n of the revision petition. There occurred some delay from the office of the counsel also in preparing the revision petition after obtaining all relevant documents due to the reason that she was busy in coordinating Kerala Flood Relief Drives in Supreme Court and High Court of Delhi for the collection of relief materials.'
2. I am satisfied that the delay of 28 days in filing the revision was neither deliberate nor contumacious therefore is allowed and the said delay is condoned. IA disposed of.
The case of the complainant, who is a Christian by faith, is that the petitioners, who are the Trustees of Jacobite Syrian Cathredel collected a sum of Rs.1001/- from him 31.12.1984, for granting permission to construct a family tomb in the cemetery of the said Cathredel. The family tomb was allegedly constructed by the complainant / respondent and even the mortals of his father were placed in the said tomb when he expired in the year 2004. It is alleged by the complainant that the said tomb was destroyed by the petitioners. Being aggrieved from the destruction of the tomb and claiming to be a consumer of the petitioners, the complainant approached the concerned District Forum by way of a consumer complaint, seeking reconstruction of the tomb and compensation.
3. The complaint was resisted by the petitioners, who took a preliminary objection that the complainant was not a consumer and therefore the consumer complaint before the Consumer Forum was not maintainable. On merits, it was alleged that the family tomb of the complainant was not existence.
4. The District Forum vide its order dated 31.10.2014 directed that the complainant would have every right to reconstruct the family tomb at its own cost and the petitioners were liable to extend necessary help and support to him for the said reconstruction in the cemetery of the Church.
5. Being aggrieved from the order passed by the District Forum, both the parties preferred separate appeals before the concerned State Commission. Vide impugned order dated 05.4.2018, the State Commission directed the petitioners to reconstruct the tomb in the cemetery of the Catehredel at their own expenses and also pay a sum of Rs.25,000/- as compensation to the complainant. Liberty was given to the complainant to reconstruct the tomb in the event of the petitioners failing to reconstruct the same and in that case, he could realize Rs.25,000/- towards the cost of construction. Being aggrieved from the order passed by the State Commission the petitioner is before this Commission by way of the present revision petition.
6. The term ‘consumer’ has been defined in Section 2(1)(d) of the Consumer Protection Act and means a person who either purchases goods or avails services for a consideration. The question which arises for consideration is as to whether the complainant can be said to have hired or availed the services of the Cathredel or its Trustees, by allegedly paying Rs.1001/- to them, for obtaining permission for construction of a family tomb in the cemetery of the Cathredel . The term ‘service’ has been defined in Section 2(1)(o) of the Consumer Protection Act, which reads as under:
'2(1)(o) ‘service’ means service of any description which is made available to potential users and includes, but not limited to, the provision of facilities in connection with banking, financing insurance, transport, processing, supply of electrical or other energy, board or lodging or both, housing construction, entertainment, amusement or the purveying of news or other information, but does not include the rendering of any service free of charge or under a contract of personal service.'
7. In my opinion, the grant of permission for construction of a family tomb in the cemetery of Cathredel does not amount to rendering services within the meaning of Section 2(1)(o) of the Consumer Protection Act. At best, it is a permission granted by a religious organization to one of its devotees. Even if some amount is charged by the religious organization from the devotees for granting the requisite permission that would not amount to rendering services as is understood in the context of the Consumer Protection Act. A devotee availing such a facility from the religious organization to which he belongs cannot be said to be a consumer in terms of the Consumer Protection Act. Therefore, a consumer complaint for redressal of the grievance of the complainant was clearly not maintainable. The view taken by the fora below in this regard cannot be sustained and is liable to be set aside.
8. For the reasons stated hereinabove, the impugned orders are set aside and the complaint is consequently dismissed, with liberty to the complainant to avail such other remedy as may be open to him in law, including approaching a Civil Court for the redressal of his grievances.
The revision petition stands disposed of.