At, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission NCDRC
By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE V.K. JAIN
By, PRESIDING MEMBER
For the Appellants: Zehra Khan, Advocate. For the Respondent: -----
Oral:This appeal is directed against the order of the State Commission dated 15.9.2020 whereby the State Commission having noticed that more than 30 days had elapsed since the notice by Regd. Post was sent and having presumed the receipt of notice by the appellant, proceeded ex-parte against the appellant. The matter was listed for arguments on 29.10.2020.2. The learned counsel for the appellant states on instructions that the appellant was served with the notice of the consumer complaint on 31.7.2020. Thirty days allowed for filing the written version expired on 30.8.2020. A further period of 15 days thereafter expired on 14.9.2020. It is an admitted position that the written version was not filed by 14.9.2020.3. The learned counsel for the appellant submits that the written version was ready but could not be filed because of the compelling circumstances as disclosed in the affidavit of Shri Lakhwinder Singh Sidhu, Advocate. The affidavit of Mr. Lakhwinder Singh to the extent, it is relevant reads as under:-“5. That since I was to put appearance for and on behalf of respondents i.e. PUDA and BDA. I joined the video conferencing at 10:00 a.m. sharp. However, since the sitting of the Hon'ble Commission was to resume at 10:30 a.m., the mic of the host was mute.6. That I tried to join at 10:30 a.m., however, the note was showing ‘this room is not available'.7. I kept on trying continuously, however, every time I met with the same note. On the website of the Hon'ble Commission a landline phone number (0172-2693737) has been provided as helpline number. I made repeated calls but the phone call was not answered to.8. That after 12:00 noon the note on the website showed this ‘room is currently locked'.9. That in the afternoon I physically visited the premises of Hon'ble Commission and I was told that the respondents have been preceded against ex-parte. I also came to know that even the complainant also could not join the video conferencing.10. That I conducted enquiry regarding the note, which was showing from 10:30 am to 12:00 noon, ‘this room is not available'. I have been told that this web application admits a limited number of participants at a given time and once the house is full, this note would be shown. Since the house remained full during the entire sitting of the Hon'ble Commission, I was not admitted in the video conferencing.11. That the respondents have been proceeded against ex-parte only for the reason that I could not join the video conferencing. That is further for the reason that I was never admitted in the room in spite of the fact that I kept on trying from 10.30 a.m. to 12.00 noon.12. That the respondents had sent the Vakalatnama and reply well in advance at my office. I was supposed to put appearance through video conferencing and thereafter to leave my reply and Vakalatnama in the drop box kept in front of the building of Hon’ble Commission. However, since I was proceeded against ex-parte during the video conferencing, later on I was not even to drop my Vakalatnama and my reply.”It is evident from the affidavit of Mr. Lakhwinder Singh that the written version was not filed on 14.9.2020. The Affidavit does not disclose even an attempt to file the written version on 14.9.2020. The whole explanation contained in the affidavit is with respect to 15.9.2020.4. As held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Civil Appeal No.10941-10942 of 2013 - New India Assurance Co. Ltd. Vs. Hilli Multipurpose Cold Storage Pvt. Ltd. dated 04.03.2020, the delay in filing the written version cannot be condoned beyond 15 days, by a Consumer Forum. Therefore, irrespective of the merit of the case, it will not be permissible for this Commission to condone the delay if it happens to be more than 15 days. Had the written version been filed on 15.9.2020 even then it would have been barred by limitation which had already expired on 14.9.2020.5. For the reasons stated hereinabove, the written version of the appellant cannot
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be taken on record. It is however, made clear that the appellant will be entitled to participate in the proceedings pending before the State Commission and will also be entitled to advance arguments on the merits of the case. The appellant will also be entitled to seek an adjournment from the State Commission on 29.10.2020 for the purpose of making its submissions on the merits of the case. The appeal stands disposed of accordingly.Dasti.