At, Kerala State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission Thiruvananthapuram
By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE K. SURENDRA MOHAN PRESIDENT
By, THE HONOURABLE MR. T.S.P. MOOSATH JUDICIAL MEMBER
By, THE HONOURABLE MR. R. RANJIT
By, THE HONOURABLE MRS. A. BEENAKUMARI
By, MEMBER & THE HONOURABLE MR. K.R. RADHAKRISHNAN
For the Petitioner: S. Suresh Babu, Advocate. For the Respondent: Annie Mascrene, N.G. Mahesh, Advocates.
R. Ranjit, MemberThe petitioner seeks condonation of delay of 498 days in preferring the appeal. The reasons stated in the affidavit and in the additional affidavit filed in support of this petition are (1) The advocate concerned did not inform about the progress of consumer complaint to the bank in time and so they could not produce documentary and oral evidence and defend their case properly. Only recently ie on 07.07.2020 they came to know about the fact that an order was passed against them as early as on 22nd February 2019. The petitioner searched several times to trace the original order issued from the District forum, but could not trace it out. Hence they immediately applied and got the certified copy of the order on 09.07.2020 and filed the appeal within time frame, from the date of receipt of the certified copy of the order and that (2) due to Natural Calamities, on account of concurrent floods in 2018 and 2019 and due to structural changes to become Kerala Bank the General Administration of the Bank was adversely affected and that (3) thereafter due to the Covid 19 Pandemic and subsequent lock down and other restrictions also effected the proper administration of the Bank. The learned counsel for the petitioner would urge that due to the above reasons which were beyond the control of the Bank, there occurred the delay and there is no willful latches on their part in not filing the appeal within the limitation period. The learned counsel contended that a liberal approach is to be taken to condone the delay. He has placed reliance of the following judgments of the Hon’ble Supreme Court to substantiate his contentions. 1) Ramanath Sons and others Vs Gobardhan Son and others (2002) 3 SCC 195, 2) Skuthal Devi Jan Vs Kuntulkumar (1969) ISCR and State of West Bengal VS Administrator, Howrah Municipality 1972 (1) SCC 366, wherein the Hon’ble Apex Court has held that the expression ‘sufficient cause’ to condone delay under Section 5 of Limitation Act should be given liberal construction to advance substantial justice. The learned counsel thus seeks to condone the delay of 498 days in filing the appeal.2. This petition is opposed by the counsel for the respondent who points out that the order of the District forum was pronounced on 22.02.2019 and the same was dispatched from the office of the District forum on 19.06.2019 and that the petitioner should have filed the appeal within the limitation period. Further the learned counsel would contend that the petitioner was not vigilant enough in prosecuting the matter and the delay was intentional. This petition is filed without any bonafides. The petitioner has to explain each day’s delay. Here the petitioner does not give adequate or sufficient reason to support his case that he was prevented from approaching this commission within the limitation period. He has placed reliance on the judgment of National Commission reported in CPJ2020 Vol 2 367 NC wherein it was held that when the petitioner did not act with diligence, the delay condonation petition is to be dismissed. The learned counsel thus seeks dismissal of the petition to condone the delay of more than 498 days.3. Having heard the respective counsel, we are not satisfied that sufficient reason has been made out in the affidavit filed in support of this petition for condonation of the inordinate delay that has been caused in this case. The first reason stated in the petition for the cause of delay is that their counsel did not inform the Bank about the progress of the case and hence they could not adduce oral or documentary evidence before the District forum so as to defend their case properly. They were also not aware of the fact that an adverse order was passed by the District forum on 22.02.2019, since the order was not traceable. Further a perusal of the impugned order shows that the documents produced by the petitioner were all produced by the complainant / respondent also and that they were marked through the complainant. All the contentions put forward by the appellant were considered by the District forum while passing the impugned order. It is an undisputed fact that the petitioner has received the order in June 2019 itself as pointed out by the learned counsel for the respondent. The only defense is that the order received was not traceable. They were happy to leave the matter as such and woke up only during November 2020. This reflects the wanton negligence and laches on the part of the employees of the petitioner. The petitioner is trying to shrink away from their liability and wants to protect their employees who were negligent in not following up the matter with their counsel and omitting to file the appeal within the time frame prescribed by law. This type of lame excuse is really unacceptable and is only to be rejected. We do so. The other reasons put forward by the petitioner is that the General Administration of the Petitioner Bank was affected due to Natural Calamities on account of concurrent floods in 2018 and 2019, and also due to structural change to become Kerala Bank and later due to Covid -19 pandemic, they could not file the appeal in time. This is also not a sufficient cause for condonation of inordinate delay of 498 days. Even before Covid-19 pandemic occurred in March 2020, there is an inordinate delay of almost 10 months in filing the appeal. The petitioner is required to instruct their employees to work and respect the law of land. They need to act diligently and promptly and approach the commission within the period of limitation. Only because their employees took their own time while dealing with other matters relating to the General Administration of the Bank, it cannot be said that it is a sufficient reason to condone the inordinate delay of 498 days in filing the appeal. The judgments relied on by the petitioner are not applicable to the facts of the present case. The settled legal position is that the law of limitation under the Consumer Protection Act is to be applied with all its rigour when the statute so prescribes, though it may harshly affect a particular party. The Hon’ble Supreme Court recently has held in Postmaster Vs Balram Singh Inaram Lodhi, reported in III (2018) CPJ 53 (NC), that Government departments are not to be given any special privileges and they have to be treated like
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a common person and that Government Departments are under special obligation to perform their duty with due diligence and commitment. Condonation of delay is an exception and should not be used as an anticipated benefit for the government departments.In view of the above discussion, we are not satisfied that the grounds mentioned in the affidavit are sufficient to explain the inordinate delay of 498 days occurred in this petition.In the result, the petition to condone the delay is dismissed. Consequently, the Appeal No.155/2020 is dismissed as barred by limitation. Release the statutory amount of Rs. 6,000/- deposited by the appellant at the time of filing the appeal, on filing proper application.