Subhash Chandra, Member
1. This revision petition filed under section 21 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (in short, the ‘Act’) assails the order of the Delhi State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission, New Delhi (in short, ‘State Commission’) in First Appeal No. 685 of 2008 dated 09.09.2008 arising out of order dated 24.04.2008 in complaint no. TC/1056/07 of the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi (in short, ‘District Forum’) dated 24.04.2008.
2. The petitioner had approached the District Forum alleging that a credit amount of Rs.22,555.65 had not been adjusted by DESU, the predecessor agency of the respondent in its bill payable by 05.04.2002 despite several attempts to resolve the issue. As the petitioner resides alone and was overseas for nearly 11 months, the consumption of electricity was wrongly billed on account of a faulty meter. While one bill was paid under protest since disconnection was threatened, the respondent had levied LPSC which she claims is not justifiable. The District Forum directed respondent to issue bills based on average billing of 200 units per month, Rs.22,555.65 be credited to the petitioner’s account without any liability of LPSC; additionally, it was ordered that debit balance in the statement of account filed by the respondent of Rs.10236/- be adjusted as it was wrongly shown and that all payments by the petitioner from 2005 be also adjusted on the basis of average consumption of 200 units per month while for the period 08.09.2006 to 08.08.2007 only meter rent be charged as the petitioner was out of the country during that period. Payment of Rs.50,000/- as compensation for harassment and mental agony and Rs.5,000/- litigation cost was also awarded.
3. In appeal, the State Commission partly allowed the prayer of the respondent and modified the order of the District Forum to the extent that the bill on the basis of 200 units per month be limited up to June 2002 till a new meter duly tested to the satisfaction of the petitioner is installed; adjustment of Rs 22,555.65 be done against entire dues from March 2000 after deducting payments already made with no liability towards LPSC; compensation for mental agony of Rs.10,000/- and litigation costs of Rs.5,000/- be awarded. FDR/ Bank Guarantee were also ordered to be returned.
4. The petitioner is aggrieved by the order of the State Commission and is before us alleging deficiency in service by the respondent with the prayer claiming that the respondent be directed to pay her the following amounts:
(i) Rs.22,555.65 from March 2002
(ii) Rs.10,326/- from 24.04.2008
(iii) Rs.55,000/- from 24.04.2008
(iv) Rs.4,440/- from 30.06.2010
(v) Rs.23,176.16 from 07.10.2010
(vi) Rs.47,000/- as litigation costs
(vii) Rs.2,00,000/- as compensation for mental trauma and harassment in case no TC 1056/2007 before the District Forum relating to disconnection of electricity;
(viii) Any other relief/reliefs
5. The matter was listed on 23.09.2022 based on an early hearing application. Notice was issued to respondent on 30.09.2022 for 16.12.2022. Based on another application for early hearing dated 26.09.2022, the matter was listed on 04.10.2022, the petitioner was present in person. However, none appeared for the respondent. During hearing it emerged that an I.A. (No. 8460 of 2022) had been filed by the petitioner seeking condonation of delay in the filing of the petition. The delay in the filing of the petition is 5020 days as the impugned order of the State Commission dated 09.09.2008 was received by the petitioner on the same date. The reasons for the delay are stated to be that the respondent issued a bill dated 07.10.2010 levying LPSC and in 2015 disconnected the electricity connection. Thereafter due to Covid-19 pandemic and financial difficulties, she could not approach this Commission. The Lok Adalat was approached by her in 2021 and she approached the Customer Care department of the respondent in June 2021 who did not take action as the matter was sub-judice before the Lok Adalat. She also filed an Execution Application No. 24/2021 before the District Forum.
6. We have heard the petitioner and perused the records with regard to IA No. 8460 of 2022.
7. Admittedly there has been considerable delay in the filing of the present revision petition. The Act provides for condonation of delay under section 24 (a) as below:
“24 A – Limitation Period - (1) The District Forum, the State Commission or the National Commission shall not admit a complaint unless it is filed within two years from the date on which the cause of action has arisen.
(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1), a complaint may be entertained after the period specified in sub-section (1), if the complainant satisfies the District Forum, the State Commission or the National Commission, as the case may be, that he had sufficient cause for not filing the complaint within such period:
Provided that no such complaint shall be entertained unless the National Commission, the State Commission or the District Forum, as the case may be, records its reasons for condoning such delay.
8. The present revision petition has been filed by the petitioner assailing the order of the State Commission dated 09.09.2008 that there is an inordinate delay of 5020 days in filing the present revision petition. The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of “Ram Lal and Ors. vs. Rewa Coalfields Limited, AIR 1962 Supreme Court 361” has held that the condonation of delay is not a matter of right and the courts can exercise its discretion to condone the delay only where sufficient reasons are shown. The Apex Court has held as under:
“12. 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 S.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 bona fides may fall for consideration; but the scope of the enquiry 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.”
9. It is also a settled preposition of law that delay of each and every day has to be explained. If a person acts in lethargic manner and continues sitting over the file and takes long time for preparing the file or in getting translations done, or delay in collecting documents, such delay cannot be said to be sufficient and reasonable as these are not the reasons which could not have been avoided. The basic test to determine whether the delay is reasonable or whether the party has been acting with due diligence, has been laid down by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of “R. B. Ramlingam vs. R. B. Bhavaneshwari, I (2009) (2) CLJ (SC) 24”. The Hon’ble Court has held as under:
"5. 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.”
10. The Hon’ble Supreme Court has directed to keep in mind the special nature of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 while dealing with the applications for condonation of delay. In the case of “Anshul Aggarwal vs. New Okhla Industrial Development Authority, (2011) 14 SCC 578,” the Hon’ble Supreme Court has held as under:
“5. 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 Fora."
11. The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of “Post Master vs. Balram Singh Patel Inaram Lodhi, III (2018) CPJ 53 (NC)” has clearly held that government departments must show their promptness and eagerness to ensure that they had performed their duties with diligence and commitment. The Hon’ble Court has held as under:
“The government departments are under a special obligation to ensure that they perform their duties with diligence and commitment. Condonation of delay is an exception and should not be used as an anticipated benefit for government departments.’
12. In the present case, the petitioner has not produced any documentary evidence to justify the delay or in support of her contentions. While the Covid 19 pandemic is mentioned as one of the reasons, it is also stated that during this period the matter was being pursued before the permanent Lok Adalat. Even after allowing the 90 days permitted to file an appeal under the Act, if the delay for the duration of the period of the pandemic from 15th March 2020 to
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28.02.2022 is considered in terms of the orders of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Suo Moto Writ Petition(C) no.3 of 2020 on 10.01.2022 allowing extension of period of limitation, the delay of 4923-717-90 = 4116 days is still unexplained satisfactorily as there is no evidence to justify the delay in approaching this Commission, considering that the petitioner had contested her case before the two lower fora and is well aware of the legal framework of redressal of consumer complaints. It is also evident that the petitioner has exercised her right under the Doctrine of Election to pursue her grievances before a permanent Lok Adalat during this period. 13. From the above, it is apparent that the Petitioner has not made out any ground for condonation of delay of 4116 days in filing the present Revision Petition. The Application stands dismissed. 14. In view of the foregoing, we do not find any reason to condone the delay which is inordinate and unjustifiable. IA no.8460 of 2022 is therefore disallowed and the revision petition accordingly dismissed.