At, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission NCDRC
By, THE HONOURABLE MR. PREM NARAIN
By, PRESIDING MEMBER
For the Petitioners: G. Joshi, Chirag Joshi, Advocates. For the Respondent: Pawan Kr. Ray, Swati Arya, Advocates.
The petitioners National Seeds Corporation Limited and others have filed this revision petition challenging the order dated 7th February 2017 passed by the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission Rajasthan, (in short ‘the State Commission’) in appeal No. 353 of 2011.
2. The brief facts of the present case are that the respondent purchased Arka Anamika ladyfinger seeds for Rs.22,500/- from the petitioner company for sowing in about 15 bighas of land which included some of the complainant’s land and the remaining she had taken on lease from other farmers. When the plants grew up, the complainant noticed that the pods are horny and yellowish and red in colour and it was difficult to pluck the ladyfingers due to horns. The complainant complained to the officers of the agriculture department who inspected the field and gave the report that the seeds were not of the variety that was alleged to have been supplied, rather they were fake seeds. On the basis of these reports, the complainant filed a consumer complaint being CC No. 370 of 2010 before the District Forum. The complaint was resisted by the petitioner herein by filing the written statement. It was stated that the complainant was not a consumer as she has purchased the seeds for commercial purpose and not for her own use. It was also stated that the petitioner was not involved in the inspection of the crop. It was requested to dismiss the complaint. The District Forum however, allowed the complaint vide it's order dated 10th January 2011 and directed the petitioner/opposite party to pay Rs.13 lakh as compensation to the complainant along with Rs.15,000 as compensation and cost.
3. Aggrieved by the order of the District Forum, the petitioner herein preferred an appeal being appeal No. 353 of 2011 before the State Commission. The State Commission vide its order dated 7th February 2017 dismissed the appeal.
4. Hence the present revision petition
5. Heard the learned counsel for the parties and perused record. The learned counsel for the petitioners stated that the seeds were purchased for commercial purpose as the complainant admittedly sowed these seeds on the leased lands. Clearly, the complainant was not a consumer and the complaint should not have been entertained by the District Forum. The opposite parties in the written statement had clearly stated that the complainant was not a consumer as the seeds were purchased for commercial purpose. Neither the District Forum nor the State Commission have considered this point. It was further stated that the petitioner was not involved in the inspection of the crop and therefore, such inspection has no meaning for the petitioner and petitioner cannot be made liable to pay any compensation to the complainant on the basis of this inspection report. Moreover, the learned counsel also emphasized that both the fora below have not considered the documents filed by the petitioner. It was also emphasized by the learned counsel for the petitioner that a seed cannot be declared as unfit and misbranded without genetic tests which can only be undertaken in a laboratory. In the present case, no laboratory tests have been undertaken and therefore, it is wrong to misbrand the seeds as unfit and not of the variety which was purchased.
6. On the other hand, the learned counsel for the respondent complainant has stated that it is not correct to say that the complainant is involved in commercial business. The fact is that the complainant is a farmer herself and has taken some more land on lease from other farmers to earn a reasonable income. Being a farmer, the complainant is a consumer qua the seed producer and seller. It was further argued that the committee of experts has examined the field and the crop and has found that the seeds were misbranded and the seeds were not of the quality and variety what was supplied. The committee report also observes that the local officer of the petitioner company was invited to join the field inspection however; he expressed his inability to join the proceedings. In a letter dated 6th February 2009 written by Area Manager of the petitioner company at Agra to the petitioner company headquarter giving various details about the seeds, the following is also mentioned:-
Subject to meeting other standards
Needs further sleaning
Other dist. Var (O.D.V.) By: Seed
Under size seed % 1 Kg.”
7. On the basis of the above, the learned counsel for the complainant stated that the seeds were thus not fit for sowing.
8. I have carefully considered the arguments advanced by both the parties and have examined the record. There is no doubt that there are two reports of experts who have inspected the field crop and have found that the seeds are not of the proper quality and not of the variety which was sold to the complainant. It is surprising to see that the State Commission has not examined any of the points raised in the appeal and has agreed with the decision of the District Forum. The order of the State Commission is clearly a non-speaking order. It is also surprising to see that the District Forum has not given any reasoning for awarding Rs.13 lakhs as compensation to the complainant. The complaint has also not given any calculation for the compensation sought in the complaint. The State Commission has also not examined the issue of compensation. Thus, the compensation of Rs.13 lakhs is totally arbitrary. The issue of purchase of seeds for commercial purpose was raised in the written statement filed by the petitioner before the District Forum, however, neither the District Forum nor the State Commission have touched upon this issue. Both the fora below have also not examined the fact of the complainant having sown the seeds in 15 bighas of land which was taken on lease also. Even the complainant has not given any breakup of her own land and the land taken on lease out of the total 15 bighas of land. This issue becomes important because of two reasons. First is that whether taking of land on lease is permissible under the State laws of Rajasthan or not. If taking on lease is not legal, then the matter needs to be examined whether complainant can get any compensation for the seeds sown on others’ land. If the taking of land on lease is legal, then it is to be seen whether the complainant has entered into any agreement with other farmers who have leased out the land to the complainant otherwise, it may be deemed that the complainant has filed complaint for loss to other farmers without any authorization.
9. Another issue that really requires examination is the quantum of compensation. None of the Fora below has given any attention to this important issue. The District Forum has not done any calculation to arrive at a figure of Rs.13 lakhs. It is also not clear whether the crop was totally lost or some crop was harvested and sold. The order of the District Forum only mentions the production of 12.5 quintals per bigha on the basis of the report of experts, but does not mention the rate at which the loss can be calculated. Even the complainant has also not given any basis for seeking the compensation.
10. From the above discussion, it is clearly brought out that none of the orders of the Fora below are sustainable. Hence, order dated 7th February 2017 of the State Commission and the order dated 10th January 2011 of the District Forum are set aside and the matter is remanded to the District Forum for deciding the complaint afresh considering the points raised in the body of this judgment at a cost of Rs.2 lakhs to be
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paid by the petitioners to the complainant. For consideration of the issues raised in this judgment, both parties may be allowed to file their additional evidence if they so desire in a time-bound manner. If finally the complaint is allowed and compensation is awarded to the complainant, then Rs.1 lakh out of the cost of Rs.2 lakhs being allowed to the complainant now will be adjusted in the amount of compensation that may be awarded by the District Forum. However, if the complaint is not allowed, then no amount shall be deducted from the complainant and the total amount of Rs.2 lakhs will be treated as cost for remanding the matter. As the matter has already become quite old, the District Forum shall endeavor to decide the complaint within a period of 3 months. The parties are directed to appear before the District Forum on 10th September, 2020.