D.K. Jain, J. President
This First Appeal under Section 19 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (for short 'the Act') is directed against orders dated 23.08.2011 and 01.03.2012 passed by the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi (for short 'the State Commission') in the Complaint filed by the Appellant. By the first order, the application filed by the Appellant for condonation of delay of over one year in filing the complaint (C-228/10) had been dismissed for non-prosecution and consequently, the complaint was also dismissed as barred by limitation. By the latter order, the application for restoration of the complaint has also been dismissed in default and also on the ground that the State Commission does not have jurisdiction to entertain such an Application.
2. In short, the grievance of the Appellant in the complaint was that his claim, preferred on 10.04.2007, for reimbursement of a sum of Rs.82,771.87, expended by him on his treatment for cerebro vascular attack, in Max Super Specialty Hospital, Opposite Party No. 1 in the complaint, had been illegally repudiated on 13.09.2007 by Royal Sundram Alliance Insurance Company, Opposite Party No. 2, under Medical Claim Health Policy, for which he had paid a sum of Rs.6,989/- as premium. The claim was repudiated on the ground that at the time of taking policy, the Appellant had not revealed that he was a known case of Hypertension and Diabetes since the last 10-15 years. Alleging deficiency in service on the part of both the Opposite Parties, respectively Respondents No. 1 & 2 in the Appeal, the Appellant prayed for compensation amounting to Rs.42,02,771.87 towards the expenses incurred on treatment (Rs.82,771.87 [actual as per bill] + Rs.5,65,000/-); Rs.35,00,000/- for mental and physical pain and Rs.55,000/- as legal and other expenses. Since the complaint was filed on 17.02.2011, after a lapse of over 3 years of the repudiation of the claim by the Insurance Company on 13.07.2007, an application seeking condonation of delay in filing the complaint was filed along with the complaint.
3. As noted above, the application as well as the complaint having been dismissed by the State Commission as also the application for restoration of the complaint, the Appellant has preferred this Appeal along with an application for condonation of delay of 62 days in filing the Appeal.
4. The Appellant himself argued his case. The Respondents were represented by their counsel. The question for consideration is whether the State Commission has committed any illegality in dismissing the Complaint for non-prosecution?
5. Having perused the application filed by the Appellant for condonation of delay of over one year in filing the complaint, we feel that since we ourselves are not convinced that the Appellant was prevented by a 'sufficient cause' in not filing the complaint, within the period of limitation, remission of the case to the State Commission for fresh consideration of application for condonation of delay would be an exercise in futility.
6. The explanation furnished in the application, praying for condonation of delay of over one year, was as under :-
'2. That the complainant could not file the present complaint within the stipulated period of two years as he had suffered paralytic attack, due to which his right side of the body was not functioning properly. The complainant was suffering from many other diseases also like diabetes, hyper-tension, arthritis apart from his old age. Due to this reason the complainant was not able to move and the file the complaint.
3. That the delay in filing the present complaint was neither willful nor deliberate but was because of the above said reason.'
7. Section 24A of the Act prescribes the limitation period for admission of complaint by the Consumer Fora. It reads as follows:-
'24A. Limitation period. - (l) The District Forum, the State Commission or the National Commission shall not admit a complaint unless it is filed within two years from the date on which the cause of action has arisen.
(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1), a complaint may be entertained after the period specified in sub-section (1), if the complainant satisfies the District Forum, the State Commission or the National Commission, as the case may be, that he had sufficient cause for not filing the complaint within such period:
Provided that no such complaint shall be entertained unless the National Commission, the State Commission or the District Forum, as the case may be, records its reasons for condoning such delay.
8. A bare reading of the provision shows that it is pre-emptory in nature and mandates that no Consumer Fora, set up under the Act, shall admit a complaint unless it has been filed within two years from the date of accrual of cause of action. However, Sub-section (2) of the said Section empowers the concerned Fora to entertain the complaint after the expiry of the said period, if it is satisfied that the Complainant had 'sufficient cause' for not filing the complaint within such period. It is trite that the Section casts a duty on a Consumer Fora to dismiss a belated complaint unless it is satisfied that the Complainant had 'sufficient cause' in not preferring the same within the prescribed time. (See: SBI Vs. B.S. Agriculture Industries (2009) 5 SCC 121.)
9. There is no denying the fact that expression 'sufficient cause' is to be construed liberally and in a meaningful manner, so as to advance the ends of justice and not strictly so as to defeat the genuine cause of a party merely because of delay. At the same time, an open life span for legal remedy for redress of an injury, would not only negate the legislative mandate, it will lead to unending uncertainty. Proviso to sub-section (2) also mandates that for condoning such delay, reasons must be recorded. Therefore, an application for condonation of delay cannot be allowed as a matter of course. The discretion to condone delay has to be exercised judicially, on due application of mind by the fora concerned, having regard to the fact situation in each case. The basic principle to be borne in mind is whether the applicant has acted with reasonable diligence in the prosecution of his case (See: R.B Ramlingam Vs. R.B. Bhvaneswari – (2009) 2 SCC 689)
10. In the present case, in our opinion, the afore extracted explanation does not spell out any cause, much less a 'sufficient cause' which would have warranted the State Commission to condone an inexplicable inordinate delay of over one year in filing the complaint. Although, the documents, placed on record indicate that the Appellant was under treatment during the period 2007 to 2009 but they do not show that on account o
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f medical treatment, the Appellant was incapacitated from filing the complaint for reimbursement of the expenses incurred on treatment in the year 2007. The complaint was clearly barred by time and therefore, it was liable to be dismissed on that short ground alone. 11. Since, we have come to the conclusion that the complaint was liable to be dismissed as barred by limitation as no 'sufficient cause' had been shown for condonation of delay in filing the complaint, we deem it unnecessary to deal with the merits of the complaint as also the question of condonation of delay of 62 days in filing the present Appeal. 12. For the foregoing reasons, the Appeal is bereft of any merit and is dismissed accordingly, with no order as to costs.