1. This revision petition has been filed by the petitioner Haryana Urban Development Authority against the order dated 26.11.2018 of the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Haryana, (in short ‘the State Commission’) passed in FA No. 994 of 2017.
2. Brief facts of the case are that the respondents/complainants purchased one SCO bearing No. 363 Sector -12, Urban Estate, Karnal in auction done by the petitioner. The respondents/complainants were not able to construct the shop as there was no development around the allotted SCO. The Consumer Complaint bearing No. 124 of 2016 was filed by the respondents/complainants before the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Karnal, (in short ‘the District Forum’). The District Forum vide its order dated 1.5.2017 passed the following order:
“15. As sequel to the foregoing discussion, we accept the present complaint and direct the opposite party to provide basic facilities at the spot as per condition of the auction and then issue fresh letter of offer of possession within 30 days after completion of the development work of basic facilities. The opposite party is not entitled to charge any interest from the complainant on the instalments and extension fee till the date of fresh offer of possession after completion of the basic facilities. We further direct the opposite party to pay Rs. 11,000 to the complainants on account of mental agony and harassment suffered by them and for the litigation expenses. The parties concerned be communicated of the order accordingly and the file be consigned to the record room after due compliance.”
3. Aggrieved by the order of the District Forum, the petitioner herein preferred appeal bearing No. 994 of 2017 before the State Commission. The State Commission passed the following order on 26.11.2018:
“12. Before parting with writing of this order, the officials of the present appellant is directed to complete the developmental work within the period of three months from the date of passing this order and thereafter, the fresh letter of possession would be offered to the complainants and then only it (HUDA) would be entitled to charge the interest and whatever the interest along with penal interest and extension fees had already been charged by the appellant, is directed to refund within the period of three months along with interest @12% per annum from the date of deposit in different phases till realization or at the most this amount can be adjusted in case any other amount is payable by the complainants to the appellant. The complainants are also entitled of Rs. 3,00,000 for compensation of mental agony and physical harassment. In addition, the complainants are also entitled of Rs. 21,000 as litigation charges. With this modification, appeal stands disposed of.”
4. Hence the present revision petition.
5. Heard the learned Counsel for the petitioner as well as for the caveator. Learned Counsel for the petitioner stated that the development work was complete, however, there was a delay in raising construction by the complainants and therefore, the interest was charged as per the rules of HUDA. The District Forum had ordered completion of the development works and to pay Rs. 11,000 as compensation to the complainants. The appeal was preferred by HUDA, because the development work was already completed and still the District Forum had ordered the completion of these works. Learned Counsel mentioned that no appeal was preferred by the complainants against the order of the District Forum, still the State Commission enhanced the amount of compensation from Rs. 11,000 to Rs. 3,00,000 and also awarded litigation cost of Rs. 21,000. The appeal was preferred by the petitioner and therefore, at the most, if the State Commission was not convinced with the arguments raised by the appellant, the State Commission should have dismissed the appeal. There was no justification for enhancing the amount of compensation and to order refund of the interest charged. Learned Counsel further stated that from the report of the Local Commissioner, it did not come out that there was no development in the area, parking facility was already there though in a bad condition.
6. Learned Counsel for the petitioner further stated that there is a delay of 261 days in filing the present revision petition and every day delay has been explained in the application for condonation of delay. The delay has occurred in obtaining higher orders and for getting appointed Advocate for filing of the present revision petition. As the delay is not intentional and the case of the petitioner is very strong on merits, the delay may be condoned.
7. On the other hand, learned Counsel for the respondents/complainants stated that when the execution has been filed by the complainants, the petitioner has approached this Commission by way of filing the revision petition. There is a huge delay in filing the revision petition and no proper reason has been given in the application for condonation of delay for the same. At every stage of the movement of file, there is delay and therefore, the total delay has resulted in huge delay of 261 days. The purpose of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 will be defeated if such delayed petitions are allowed.
8. It was further stated by the learned Counsel for the complainants that a Local Commissioner was appointed and he has given report dated 19.8.2016, wherein the following has been observed:
“On the inspection at site it was observed that there is no facilities/services like service lane, concrete platform available to connect the site in dispute nor any proper parking place available near the SCO No. 363, Sector-12, Urban Estate, Karnal. However, a parking place in very delapitated condition was shown by the SDO, HUDA. It is further observed that no proper LT electric line was provided for the SCO’s Photocopy of the site are attached for assessing the ground reality.”
9. On the basis of the above report of the Local Commissioner, it would be quite clear that there was no development of the site and thus, it was not possible to raise any construction on the allotted SCO. The State Commission has considered all these aspects and has found great deficiency on the part of the petitioner herein and that is why a compensation of Rs. 3,00,000 has been ordered.
10. I have given a thoughtful consideration to the arguments advanced by the learned Counsel for the parties and examined the record. First of all, it is seen that the revision petition has been filed with a delay of 261 days. The delay has been explained on the basis of time taken in getting higher orders and time spent in inter-departmental consultants as well as in appointing the Advocate to prepare and file the present revision petition. In fact, petitioner being a Government agency, it has to resort to consultations at various stages before filing the appeal/revision. The Hon’ble Supreme Court in Manoharan v. Sivarajan & Ors., IX (2013) SLT 574=IV (2013) BC 679 (SC)=IV (2013) CLT 287 (SC), Civil Appeal No. 10581 of 2013, decided on 25.11.2013 (SC) has held that:
“9. In the case of State of Bihar & Ors. v. Kameshwar Prasad Singh & Anr., it was held that power to condone the delay in approaching the Court has been conferred upon the Courts to enable them to do substantial justice to parties by disposing the cases on merit. The relevant paragraphs of the case read as under:
“11. Power to condone the delay in approaching the Court has been conferred upon the Courts to enable them to do substantial justice to parties by disposing of matters on merits. This Court in Collector, Land Acquisition, Anantnag v. Mst. Katiji, (1987) ILLJ 500 SC, held that the expression ‘sufficient cause’ employed by the Legislature in the Limitation Act is adequately elastic to enable the Courts to apply the law in a meaningful manner which subserves the ends of justice—that being the life purpose for the existence of the institution of Courts. It was further observed that a liberal approach is adopted on principle as it is realised that:
1. Ordinarily a litigant does not stand to benefit by lodging an appeal late.
2. Refusing to condone delay can result in a meritorious matter being thrown out at the very threshold and cause of justice being defeated. As against this when delay is condoned the highest that can happen is that a cause would be decided on merits after hearing the parties.
3. ‘Every day’s delay must be explained’ does not mean that a pedantic approach should be made. Why not every hour’s delay, every second’s delay? The doctrine must be applied in a rational common sense pragmatic manner.
4. When substantial justice and technical considerations are pitted against each other, cause of substantial justice deserves to be preferred for the other side cannot claim to have vested right in injustice being done because of a non-deliberate delay.
5. There is no presumption that delay is occasioned delibera-tely, or on account of culpable negligence, or on account of mala fides. A litigant does not stand to benefit by resorting to delay. In fact he runs a serious risk.
6. It must be grasped that judiciary is respected not on account of its power to legalize injustice on technical grounds but because it is capable of removing injustice and is expected to do so.”
11. Similarly, Hon’ble Supreme Court in the matter of Esha Bhattacharjee v. Managing Committee of Raghunathpur Nafar Academy and Others., VIII (2013) SLT 95=IV (2013) CLT 62 (SC)=(2013) 12 SCC 649, has laid down:
21. “From the aforesaid authorities (case laws referred) the principles that can broadly be culled out are:
21.1. (i) There should be a liberal, pragmatic, justice-oriented, non-pedantic approach while dealing with an application for condonation of delay, for the Courts are not supposed to legalise injustice but are obliged to remove injustice.
21.2 (ii) The terms “sufficient cause” should be understood in their proper spirit, philosophy and purpose regard being had to the fact that these terms are basically elastic and are to be applied in proper perspective to the obtaining fact- situation.
21.3 (iii) Substantial justice being paramount and pivotal the technical considerations should not be given undue and uncalled for emphasis.
21.4 (iv) No presumption can be attached to deliberate causation of delay but, gross negligence on the part of the Counsel or litigant is to be taken note of.
21.5 (v) Lack of bona fides imputable to a party seeking condonation of delay is a significant and relevant fact.
21.6. (vi) It is to be kept in mind that adherence to strict proof should not affect public justice and cause public mischief because the Courts are required to be vigilant so that in the ultimate eventuate there is no real failure of justice.
21.7 (vii) The concept of liberal approach has to encapsule the conception of reasonableness and it cannot be allowed a totally unfettered free play.
21.8 (viii) There is a distinction between inordinate delay and a delay of short duration or few days, for to the former doctrine of prejudice is attracted whereas to the latter it may not be attracted. That apart, the first one warrants strict approach whereas the second calls for a liberal delineation.
21.9 (ix) The conduct, behaviour and attitude of a party relating to its inaction or negligence are relevant factors to be taken into consideration. It is so as the fundamental principle is that the Courts are required to weigh the scale of balance of justice in respect of both parties and the said principle cannot be given a total go by in the name of liberal approach.
21.10 (x) If the explanation offered is concocted or the grounds urged in the application are fanciful, the Courts should be vigilant not to expose the other side unnecessarily to face such a litigation.
21.11. (xi) It is to be borne in mind that no one gets away with fraud, misrepresentation or interpolation by taking recourse to the technicalities of law of limitation.
21.12. (xii) The entire gamut of facts are to be carefully scrutinized and the approach should be based on the paradigm of judicial discretion which is founded on objective reasoning and not on individual perception.
21.13. (xiii) The State or a public body or an entity representing a collective cause should be given some acceptable latitude.
22. To the aforesaid principles we may add some more guidelines taking note of the present day scenario. They are:
22.1. (a) An application for condonation of delay should be drafted with careful concern and not in a half hazard manner harbouring the notion that the Courts are required to condone delay on the bedrock of the principle that adjudication of a lis on merits is seminal to justice dispensation system.
22.2. (b) An application for condonation of delay should not be dealt with in a routine manner on the base of individual philosophy which is basically subjective.
22.3. (c) Though no precise formula can be laid down regard being had to the concept of judicial discretion, yet a conscious effort for achieving consistency and collegiality of the adjudicatory system should be made as that is the ultimate institutional motto.
22.4. (d) The increasing tendency to perceive delay as a non-serious matter and, hence, lackadaisical propensity can be exhibited in a non-challant manner requires to be curbed, of course, within legal parameters.”
12. The Hon’ble Supreme Court in another case, N. Balakrishnan v. M. Krishnamurthy, VII (1998) SLT 334=IV (1998) CLT 63 (SC)=(1998) Supp. 1 SCR 403, has laid down the following:
“11. Rules of limitation are not meant to destroy the right of parties. They are meant to see that parties do not resort to dilatory tactics, but seek their remedy promptly. The object of providing a legal remedy is to repair the damage caused by reason of legal injury. Law of limitation fixes a life-span for such legal remedy for the redress of the legal injury so suffered. Time is precious and the wasted time would never revisit. During efflux of time newer causes would sprout up necessitating newer persons to seek legal remedy by approaching the Courts. So a life span must be fixed for each remedy. Unending period for launching the remedy may lead to unending uncertainty and consequential anarchy. Law of limitation is thus founded on public policy. It is enshrined in the maxim Interest reipublicae up sit finis Mum (it is for the general welfare that a period be put to litigation). Rules of limitation are not meant to destroy the right of the parties. They are meant to see that parties do not resort to dilatory tactics but seek their remedy promptly. The idea is that every legal remedy must be kept alive for a legislatively fixed period of time.
12. A Court knows that refusal to condone delay would result in foreclosing a suitor from putting forth his cause. There is no presumption that delay in approaching the Court is always deliberate. This Court has held that the words “sufficient cause” Under Section 5 of the Limitation Act should receive a liberal construction so as to advance substantial justice vide Shakuntala Devi Jain v. Kuntal Kumari, MANU/SC/0335/1968: [AIR 1969 SCR 1006] and State of West Bengal v. The Administrator, Howrah Municipality, MANU/SC/0534/1971:  2 SCR 874a.
13. It must be remembered that in every case of delay there can be some lapse on the part of the litigant concerned. That alone is not enough to turn down his plea and to shut the door against him. If the explanation does not smack of mala fides or it is not put forth as part of a dilatory strategy the Court must show utmost consideration to the suitor. But when there is reasonable ground to think that the delay was occasioned by the party deliberately to gain time then the Court should lean against acceptance of the explanation. While condoning delay the Court should not forget the opposite party altogether. It must be borne in mind that he is a looser and he too would have incurred quiet a large litigation expenses. It would be a salutary guideline that when Courts condone the delay due to laches on the part of the applicant the Court shall compensate the opposite party for his loss.”
13. On the basis of the above authoritative judgments of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, I deem it appropriate to allow the application for condonation of delay in filing the present revision petition at a cost of Rs. 20,000 (Rupees twenty thousand only) to be paid by the petitioner herein to the respondents/complainants.
14. Based on the report of the Local Commissioner and otherwise the District Forum ordered completion of all the development works in a time bound manner and ordered a compensation of Rs. 11,000. The State Commission, in a way, confirmed the order of the District Forum for completion of the development works, however, the State Commission also ordered refund of interest charged from the complainants along with 12% p.a. interest as well as a compensation of Rs. 3,00,000. The complainants had not filed any appeal against the order dated 1.5.2017 of the District Forum and therefore, enhancement of the compensation was not warranted in the
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order of the State Commission, though, it is open to an Appellate Court to pass an order like a Trial Court. 15. From the report of the Local Commissioner, it is quite clear that the development works on the site were not complete and therefore, the interest charged from the complainants was not valid. Therefore, I do not find any error in the order dated 26.11.2018 of the State Commission in granting refund of the interest charged from the complainants along with interest. 16. Coming to the question of compensation, it is seen that the District Forum had awarded compensation of Rs. 11,000 including the cost of litigation whereas the State Commission has enhanced it to Rs. 3,00,000. As the complainants had not filed any appeal against the order of the District Forum, it seems that they were contended with the compensation provided by the District Forum. At the appellate stage, the Appellate Court has got the power of the Trial Court. When the interest charged from the complainants was ordered to be refunded along with interest, there was no occasion to enhance the compensation to such a high level. In the background of the case, I deem it appropriate to allow a compensation of Rs. 40,000 (Rupees forty thousand only) which will be reasonable and sufficient in the facts and circumstances of the case. 17. Based on the above discussion, the revision petition No. 2580 of 2019 is partly allowed and the order dated 26.11.2018 of the State Commission is modified to the extent that the petitioner herein will pay Rs. 40,000 (Rupees forty thousand only) as compensation instead of Rs. 3,00,000 as ordered by the State Commission. The petitioner herein will also pay a sum of Rs. 20,000 (Rupees twenty thousand only) to the complainants as cost for condoning the delay in filing the present revision petition. Rest of the order of the State Commission remains unchanged. Revision Petition partly allowed.