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Sanjivani Cold Storage & Ice Factory v/s Shripal & Others

    Revision Petition Nos. 2680 to 2684 of 2018

    Decided On, 04 April 2019

    At, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission NCDRC

    By, MEMBER

    For the Petitioner: Swati Arya, Pawan Kumar Ray, Advocates. For the Respondents: None.

Judgment Text

M. Shreesha, Member

1. Challenge in these Revision Petitions under Section 21 (b) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (in short “the Act”) is to the common order dated 23.5.2018 passed by the Uttar Pradesh State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (in short “the State Commission”) in First Appeal Nos. 1031, 1033, 1035, 1036 and 1037 of 2015. By the impugned order, the State Commission has concurred with the findings of the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Bulandshahar (in short “the District Forum”), and dismissed the Appeals preferred by Sanjivani Cold Storage & Ice Factory (hereinafter referred to as “the Cold Storage”).

2. For the sake of convenience, Revision Petition No. 2680 of 2018 is being taken as the lead case.

3. The facts in brief are that the Complainant on 1.4.2018 deposited 80 bags of potatoes equivalent to 40 quintals with the Cold Storage. On 2.10.2013 and 3.10.2013 when the Complainant went to the Cold Storage for collecting his potato bags, he was informed that he can come to collect them after 4 or 5 days. On 7.10.2013, when the Complainant once again went to the Cold Storage he was informed that the potatoes were spoiled and have become rotten and that the cold Storage would purchase potatoes from the open market and return the same to the Complainant. On such a promise being made the Complainant repeatedly requested for return of his potato bags but there was no response. It is stated that on 24.10.2013, the personnel at the Cold Storage even misbehaved with the Complainant. Since the Complainant required the potatoes for the purposes of agriculture he purchased 46 bags from the open market for an amount of 84,000 and suffered financial loss. A legal notice was issued on 20.10.2013, for refund of the amount but there was no response. Hence, the Complainant approached the District Forum seeking a direction to the Cold Storage to pay an amount of 84,000 with costs of 10,000 and other reliefs towards compensation.

4. The Cold Storage filed their Written Version admitting that the Complainant on 1.4.2013 had stored 80 bags of potato for the purpose of seed of crop at the rate of 110 per bag towards rent till 31.10.2013. The Complainant deposited the potatoes at his own risk and the Cold Storage has no knowledge of the condition of the potato whether it was spoiled or soggy. It was denied that the Complainant had visited the Cold Storage on 2.10.2013 and 3.10.2013 or on 7.10.2013. It was averred that the Complainant never visited the Cold Storage to collect his potatoes and that a promise was never made to purchase the potatoes in the open market and return the same to the Complainant. It is stated that the Cold Storage is maintained perfectly and there is also a generator to maintain the temperature. It is stated that it was only on 24.10.2013 that the Complainant had visited the Cold Storage and it was found that 15 to 20 per cent of the potatoes were in a damaged condition, but the Complainant had refused to collect the same and demanded that the Cold Storage pay the amount towards the entire deposited potatoes. It was pleaded that when the Complainant had deposited the potatoes, they were very small in size and extracted from wet and sandy soil and therefore attracted fungus and had become rotten. In the month of March, 2013 there was heavy rainfall and some of the potatoes were damaged and the Complainant had stored the potatoes in a hurry. It is stated that at that point of time as the potatoes were already wet with the heavy rainfall, it had attracted fungus, but yet the Complainant deliberately with an ill-intention stored the same in the Cold Storage only to extract the amount from them. It is further averred that the Complainant ought to have sorted the potatoes, which were meant for seed within 7 days of their extraction from the soil and then kept them in separate bags prior to storing them in the Cold Storage, but the Complainant did not do so and therefore on account of their own negligence, the potatoes had turned rotten. It is stated that the rental charges have still not been paid and the Complainant had to pay the Cold Storage rentals at the rate of 110 per bag for the period from 1.4.2013 to 31.10.2013 and therefore there is no deficiency of service and seeks for dismissal of the Complaint with Costs.

5. The District Forum based on the evidence adduced allowed the Complaint and directed the Cold Storage to pay 86,000 with interest @ 6% p.a. and 2,000 towards cost.

6. On an Appeal preferred by the Cold Storage, the State Commission concurred with the finding of the District Forum and dismissed the Appeal.

7. Learned Counsel appearing for the Revision Petition vehemently contended that the potatoes deposited by the Complainant were already wet and spotted because of the rains; that it was only on 24.10.2013 that the Complainant had visited the cold Storage and found that 15 to 20 per cent of the potatoes were already damaged.; that the Cold Storage had requested the Complainant to take back the rest of the stock, but under the influence of the other farmers and in order to demand money from the Cold Storage, the Complainant refused to take the rest of the stock; that no rental charges were paid that there was no evidence brought on record before the Fora below that the Complainant had ever visited the Cold Storage on date specified in the Complaint and that the Complainant is not ‘Consumers’ as they stored the potatoes in the Cold Storage for commercial purpose.

8. Having given our anxious consideration to all the submissions made by the Counsel for the Revision Petitioner, we first address ourselves to the issue whether the Complainant is ‘Consumer’. The potatoes that were stored in the Cold Storage were admittedly meant for usage towards seed crop. These potato seeds were meant for purpose of the agriculture and the Hon’ble Supreme Court in a catena of Judgments has laid down the ratio that agriculture is the genesis of the agrarian economy of our country and therefore it cannot be strictly construed as to be for ‘commercial purpose’. Even otherwise the onus is on the Revision Petitioner to establish that the Complainant was involved in a large scale commercial, profit venture, which they failed to discharge by way of any documentary evidence. Hence, we are of the considered view that the Complainant is ‘Consumers’ and fall within the ambit of Section 2(1)(d) of the Act.

9. Even if for arguments sake, if we take into consideration the contention of learned Counsel for the Revision Petitioner that the Complainant never visited the Cold Storage on 2.10.2013, 3.10.2013 and 7.10.2013, but have only visited on 24.10.2013, the fact remains that the potatoes were meant to be stored till 31.10.2013 and therefore whether the Complainant has visited on the aforenoted dates or not is of no relevance. It is an admitted fact that the Complainant had visited the Cold Storage on 24.10.2013 and found the potatoes in a rotten condition. It is the Revision Petitioner’s case that only 15 to 20 per cent potatoes were damaged. If this contention that only 15% were damaged is taken into consideration, than equally the submission made by the Counsel that the potatoes were small in size and were already wet and mixed with mud and sand

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and therefore get spoiled and turned rotten, cannot be sustained, if the potatoes were already in a bad condition prior to depositing them in the Cold Storage, then the entire stock would be in a spoiled condition and not just 15%. 10. For all the aforenoted reasons, we see no ground to interfere with the concurrent finding of both the Fora below. We are also of the view that both the Fora below have awarded only a reasonable interest @ 6% p.a. and a meagre amount of 2,000 towards costs, we do not find any illegality in the concurrent orders of the Fora below to exercise our limited revisional jurisdiction as envisaged by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Rubi Chandra Dutta v. United India Insurance Co. Ltd., II (2011) CPJ 19 (SC)=IV (2011) SLT 303=2011 (11) SCC 269. Revision Petition dismissed.