This is an appeal filed by the Royal Sundaram Alliance Insurance Company against the judgement and award passed by District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Nashik in consumer complaint No.88/2010.By allowing the complaint partly, District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum directed Royal Sundaram Alliance Insurance Company to pay to the complainant a sum of `1,91,135/- towards insurance claim lodged by the complainant with interest @ 12% p.a. from 29/09/2009 and also directed to pay `7,500/- for mental harassment and `1,000/- towards costs. As such org. opponents have filed this appeal taking strong exception to the award passed by District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum.
2.In nutshell the facts are as under :-
Respondent here is a resident of Tidke Colony, Nashik. He had taken car loan and had purchased a Maruti Alto LX1. It was having registration No.MH-15-BN-4671. Said car was purchased for personal use by taking car loan from Kotak Mahindra, Nashik. It was insured with the appellant/Insurance Company for period 29/06/2006 to 28/06/2007. Policy was extended for further period of 29/06/2008 to 28/06/2009. The insured declared value was `2,29,937/-. According to the complainant, opponent No.2 is Insurance Company of Chennai and opponent No.1-Automotive Manufacturing Pvt. Ltd., MIDC area, Ambad, Nashik sells insurance policy for insuring cars and he had purchased the policy from opponent No.1 at Nashik. Said vehicle was taken by his relative Shri Shrimant Baburao Kothikar to go to Mumbai and when he had parked the vehicle on 29/06/2008 in their building in the parking lot, his vehicle was found missing from parking lot at Mumbai and therefore, Mr.Kothikar had lodged complaint with Powai Police Station on 01/07/2008 about theft of the vehicle. Accordingly, police registered the offence under crime No.364/08. He also lodged claim with the Insurance Company by filing claim form. He had submitted all the documents, but opponent/Insurance Company repudiated the claim on the ground that the complainant had not taken reasonable care in safeguarding the vehicle and that complainant had informed them about theft after 7 months. Aggrieved by the repudiation, the complainant filed consumer complaint in the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Nashik claiming various reliefs against the Insurance Company.
3.Opponents filed written version and contested the matter. According to the opponents vehicle of the complainant was registered with opponent No.2 and any dispute in respect of said policy purchased by the complainant must have been filed in Chennai Forum and not in Nashik District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum. Opponent specifically pleaded that they were not having any branch office at Nashik and District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Nashik had no territorial jurisdiction to entertain and try the complaint filed by the complainant. In the condition of the policy, it is specifically mentioned that immediately on happening of any event, the policy holder has to intimate the Insurance Company without any unreasonable delay. After about 6 months of the theft they informed the Insurance Company about theft of vehicle whereas, complainant was supposed to inform about the loss immediately as per the term and condition No.4 of the policy. The Insurance Company also pleaded that the complainant failed to observe and fulfill the terms and conditions of the policy in so far as it relates to taking of reasonable and due care of the vehicle insured with them. According to the Insurance Company, there was negligence on the part of complainant because theft of the vehicle was on account of vehicle being left unattended with key on the date of theft. So, keeping key in the vehicle itself was negligence. They also specifically pleaded that District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum lacks territorial jurisdiction. In as much as the insurance contract is made at Chennai. The policy was issued at Chennai. The claim was lodged at Mumbai office and theft of the vehicle had taken place at Mumbai and there is no divisional office or any branch office of Insurance Company at Nashik. So, cause of action had not arisen at Nashik and therefore, they pleaded that complaint should be dismissed with costs.
4.District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum considering documents and affidavits placed on record held that because of theft of vehicle, the Insurance Company ought to have paid amount of `1,91,135/- to the complainant by allowing the claim lodged by the complainant. The Insurance Company was guilty of deficiency in service and therefore, District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum was pleased to allow the complaint and directed the Insurance Company to pay the sum as mentioned in the opening para of the judgement. Aggrieved by this judgement, the Insurance Company has filed this appeal.
5.We heard submissions of Advocate Mr.A.S. Vidyarthi for the appellants and Advocate Mr.K.B. Chandwadkar for the respondent/complainant.
6.Advocate Mr.Vidyarthi submitted that District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum lacked territorial jurisdiction to entertain and try the instant complaint. No doubt, the respondent is resident of Nashik and therefore, he chose to file consumer complaint in District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Nashik. However, he invited our attention to the provisions contained in Section 11 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 which inter alia provides that complaint should be filed in whose jurisdiction the opponent resides or carries on business or work for gain or opponent is having branch office in that district or where the cause of action arisen. The cause of action for this complaint arose at Mumbai where the vehicle belonging to the complainant/respondent was taken by his relative Mr.Kothikar. He had lodged complaint of theft of vehicle belonging to the complainant in Powai Police Station where the car was stolen. So, the cause of action for lodging insurance claim arose at Mumbai. According to the appellant/Insurance Company they are not having any branch office at Nashik. They may be having business tie-up with Automotive Manufacturing Pvt. Ltd., who sells car at Nashik, but Advocate Mr.Vidyarthi specifically contended that the Automotive Manufacturing Pvt. Ltd. is not a branch of Insurance Company and policy was issued from Chennai and therefore, the complainant could have filed consumer complaint either at Chennai where their Head Office is situated or at any of the Branch office operating in the State of Maharashtra or at Mumbai where they are admittedly having branch office. But, certainly, the appellant/Insurance Company is not having branch office at Nashik and therefore, District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Nashik lacked territorial jurisdiction to entertain and try present complaint. This was the main thrust of the argument advanced before us by Advocate Mr.Vidyarthi for the appellant.
7.To this, Advocate Mr.Chandwarkar had no effective reply.He went on to submit before us in common refrain that his client had purchased the policy from opponent No.1 i.e. Automotive Manufacturing Pvt. Ltd. He could not satisfy us that Automotive Manufacturing Pvt. Ltd. is the branch office of Insurance Company. As we mentioned above, the Automotive Manufacturing Pvt. Ltd. may be having business tie-up with the Insurance Company to sell the policy, but the Statute provides that complaint could be filed only when there is branch office at particular District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum. In this case, the Insurance Company is not having branch office at Nashik and therefore, District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Nashik had no territorial jurisdiction to entertain and try the present complaint.Complainant should have filed consumer complaint either at Chennai or at Mumbai where the cause of action arose because there was branch office at Mumbai and car too was stolen at Mumbai for which F.I.R. was lodged by Mr.Kothikar at Mumbai. In the circumstances, we ar
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e finding that the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum lacked territorial jurisdiction to entertain and try present complaint as per mandatory provisions contained in Section 11 of Consumer Protection Act, 1986 and on that ground itself, the award passed by District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum will have to be faulted and the same will have to be quashed by allowing this appeal.Hence, we pass the following order :- -: ORDER :- 1.Appeal is allowed.The impugned order dated 28/01/2011 is quashed and set aside.The consumer complaint stands dismissed. 2.Complainant is permitted to file consumer complaint in any other District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum having territorial jurisdiction to entertain and try the consumer complaint. 3.Parties are left to bear their own costs. 4.Copies of the order be furnished to the parties.