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Max New York Life Insurance Co. Ltd. & Another v/s Maqbool Hussain

    Revision Petition No. 75 of 2015 in Appeal Nos. 493 & 887 of 2014

    Decided On, 16 October 2015

    At, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission NCDRC

    By, MEMBER

    For the Petitioners: Piyush Singhal, Advocate. For the Respondent: Gagan Gupta, with Saurabh Gupta, Advocate.

Judgment Text

1. This Revision Petition, under Section 21(b) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (for short 'the Act'), has been filed by Max New York Life Insurance Co. Ltd. (now known as Max Life Insurance Co. Ltd.) and its Branch Manager at Malerkotla, Opposite Parties in the Complaint under the Act, against the order, dated 29.10.2014, passed by the Punjab State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission at Chandigarh (for short 'the State Commission') in Miscellaneous Application No. 887 of 2014 in/and First Appeal No.493 of 2014. By the impugned order, the State Commission, while observing that the Petitioners herein have failed to make out sufficient cause for condonation of inordinate delay of 100 days, has dismissed the Appeal on the ground of limitation.

2. The said Appeal had been filed against the order, dated 05.12.2013, passed by the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum at Sangrur (for short 'the District Forum') in Complaint No. 364 of 2012, directing the Petitioners to pay to the Respondent/Complainant a sum of Rs. 2,50,000/- along with interest @ 9% per annum from the date of filing of the Complaint till realization as also Rs. 5000/- towards litigation expenses within a period of 30 days from the date of receipt of that order.

3. In the absence of any written statement being filed on behalf of the Petitioners, despite several opportunities, the unrebutted facts, giving rise to the present Revision Petition, as culled out from the Complaint, are that the son of the Complainant, namely, Mohammad Arif had obtained a life insurance policy from the Petitioners for the assured sum of Rs. 2,50,000/-. The annual premium of the said policy was Rs. 50,000/-, which was payable in two half-yearly installments of Rs. 25,000/- each. Perhaps during the validityperiod of the policy, the said Mohammad Arif requested the Petitioners to assign the policy in question in the name of his sister Toiba. Vide their letter dated 21.02.2011, the Petitioners acceded to the said request and informed him that the effective date of said coverage was from 21.02.2011 itself. The Complainant was appointed as the nominee of the assignee. On 28.02.2012, the said assignee, Toiba, died at Malerkotla. The Complainant preferred a claim before the Petitioners, inter alia, enclosing therewith the original policy. Though initially the Petitioners assured the Complainant that the claim would be settled within a period of 15 days, however, subsequently, they asked for the will of the deceased Toiba. In his reply, the Complainant informed the Petitioners that her death was natural and she had died intestate. The Petitioners kept on insisting for the said will and ultimately vide their letter dated 28.06.2012 repudiated the claim on the ground of non-submission of the will. Aggrieved with the repudiation of his claim and resultant harassment, without any reasonable cause, at the hands of the Petitioners, the Complainant filed the afore-noted Complaint before the District Forum, alleging unfair trade practice and deficiency in service on the part of the Petitioners. He prayed for a direction to the Petitioners to pay to him the assured sum of Rs. 2,50,000/- along with interest @ 24% per annum from 28.02.2012 till payment along with all other benefits of the policy in question as also Rs. 1,00,000/- on account of mental and physical harassment and Rs. 22,000/- as litigation expenses.

4. As noted above, despite several opportunities, the Petitioners did not file their written statement before the District Forum. Vide order dated 19.12.2012, their defence was struck off. Taking into consideration the evidence adduced by the Petitioners, vide order dated 05.12.2013, while allowing the Complaint, the District Forum issued the afore-stated directions to the Petitioners.

5. Being aggrieved, the Petitioners filed the afore-noted Appeal before the State Commission with a delay of 100 days. An Application praying for condonation of the said delay had been filed along with the Appeal. In the said application, the explanation furnished for the delay was as under:

'2. That the appellants send the written statement to the counsel appointed by the Company but the same was not filed before the Learned District Forum and therefore the defence of the Company was struck of. Subsequently, the company requested the counsel to file an application for setting aside the defence but no application was filed by the counsel for the appellants and the impugned order was passed which is challenged under appeal. The appellants engaged the counsel for filing the appeal but as the appeal was not filed by him, the appellants left with no option to engage the another counsel for filing the present appeal and as such the appeal is being filed alongwith the application for condonation of delay in filing the appeal.

3. That the copy of the order dated 05.12.2013 from the Learned District Forum by post and the same alongwith documents was sent to the counsel to file the present appeal as mentioned above but he failed to file the same before the Hon’ble State Commission and as such the company has to engaged the present counsel to file the appeal before the Hon’ble State Commission.

4. That to the due above mentioned reasons, a delay of ____ days has occurred in filing the appeal which is neither intentional nor deliberate on the part of the appellants. …'

6. The State Commission having held that the afore-extracted explanation does not make out a sufficient cause, we are required to consider whether the State Commission has failed to exercise the discretion vested in it for condoning the delay and in the process committed a jurisdictional error?

7. We have heard learned Counsel for the Petitioners on the said question.

8. Bearing in mind the broad principles laid down in a catena of decisions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, viz., ‘sufficient cause’ cannot be construed liberally if negligence, inaction or lack of bonafides are attributable to the party, praying for exercise of such discretion in its favour, and that when a statute provides for a particular period of limitation, it has to be applied with all its rigors, as an unlimited limitation leads to a sense of uncertainty, we are of the view opinion that the State Commission has not committed any jurisdictional error in coming to the conclusion that the afore-extracted explanation does not make out a sufficient cause for condonation of an inordinate delay.

9. The explanation that it was because of lapse on the part of their Counsel appearing either before the District Forum or before the State Commission that written statement and Appeal could not be filed in time before the Fora below belies conviction. Apart from the fact that repeated alleged defaults on the part of the Counsel does not absolve the Petitioners from their responsibility to be vigilant in pursuing a cause they had resorted to, they have failed to bring on record any material to show that they had even sought an explanation from their Counsel, leave alone any action against him. At the cost of repetition, we may observe that a bald assertion relating to failure of their Advocate(s) was not sufficient to hold that the Petitioners had a sufficient cause for the delay. They were in their deep slumber till notice dated 07.03.2014, was received by them on 14.03.2014, in the Execution proceedings initiated by the Complainant, and filed the Appeal before the State Commission on 28.04.2014. We are of the view that the Petitioners were negligent in prosecuting their cause and the explanation furnished by them also lacked bonafides.

10. Bearing in mind the observations of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Anshul Aggarwal vs. New Okhla Industrial Development Authority [(2011) 14 SCC 578] to t

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he effect that while deciding an application for condonation of delay, the Court has to keep in mind that the special period of limitation has been prescribed under the Act for filing appeals and revisions in consumer matters and the object of expeditious adjudication of the consumer disputes will get defeated if highly belated petitions filed against the orders of the Consumer Foras are entertained, we are of the view that the State Commission, for the reasons recorded in the impugned order, was fully justified in declining to condone the inordinate delay of 100 days caused in filing of the Appeal and in dismissing the same on the ground of limitation. We do not find any jurisdictional error in the impugned order, warranting interference in our Revisional Jurisdiction under the Act. 11. Consequently, the Revision Petition fails is dismissed accordingly.