Lokeshwar Prasad, President:
1.The present appeal, filed by the appellant, under Section 15 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Act’), is directed against order dated 15.9.2000, passed by District Forum No.-I in Complaint Case No. 183/2000 entitled M/s. Chelsea Products v. M/s. Tirupati Balaji Services.
2. The facts, relevant for the disposal of the present appeal, briefly stated, are that the respondent M/s. Chelsea Products had filed a complaint before the District Forum under Section 12 of the Act averring that the respondent had booked goods with Rs. 53,125/- for being transported from Delhi to Bangalore with the appellant vide GR No. 3778 dated 15.2.1999. It was stated, in the complaint, that the appellant, to whom the goods were entrusted for being transported from Delhi to Bangalore, failed to deliver the consignment to the addressee in spite of repeated requests and legal notice. It was prayed in the complaint filed by the respondent, that the appellant be directed to pay the cost of the consigned goods, valuing Rs. 53,125/- together with interest and damages.
3. The claim of the respondent, in the District Forum, was resisted by the appellant and the stand taken by the appellant, in the District Forum, was that the appellant had informed the respondent in clear-cut terms not to book any goods which were not insured and that in case of damage/loss during transit, the appellant would not be responsible.
4. The learned District Forum, vide impugned order, has held the appellant guilty of deficiency in service and on the above ground has directed the appellant to pay to the respondent a sum of Rs. 53,125/- being the price of the goods entrusted together with interest @ 12% per annum from 12.2.1999 till payment. The District Forum has also directed the appellant to pay to the respondent a sum of Rs. 1,000/- as cost of litigation.
5. Feeling aggrieved, the appellant has preferred the present appeal under Section 15 of the Act.
6. We have heard the learned Counsel for the appellant at length on the question of admission of the present appeal and have also carefully gone through the documents/material on record. In terms of the provisions contained in Section 15 of the Act, a person, aggrieved by an order, made by the District Forum, can prefer an appeal against such order to the State Commission within a period of 30 days from the date of the order. However, proviso to Section 15 of the Act provides that the State Commission may entertain an appeal even after the expiry of the above said period of 30 days, if it is satisfied that there was ‘sufficient cause’ for not filing the same within the above said period. The words ‘sufficient cause’ occurring in proviso to Section 15 of the Act, are of utmost significance. As per the settled law, culled out from various judicial decisions, the above expression ‘sufficient cause’, though deserves to receive a liberal interpretation, yet, a just and equitable balance has to be maintained between the right secured by the respondent as a result of expiry of the prescribed period of limitation and the injustice of depriving the appellant of adjudication of his grievances on the merits of his appeal for causes beyond his reasonable control, which means the cause is bonafide and beyond the control of the appellant. Though, no hard and fast line can be drawn as to what affords ‘sufficient cause’ in a given case, yet, again, as per settled law, any cause which prevents a person from approaching the Court within time is ‘sufficient cause’. In doing so, it is the test of a reasonable man in normal circumstances which has to be applied.
7. Admittedly, the present appeal has not been filed by the appellant within the prescribed period of 30 days because the order being impugned in the present proceedings was passed by the learned District Forum on 15.9.2000 and the present appeal has been filed in this Commission on 11.12.2000. Therefore, the question requiring consideration at the very threshold is as to whether the appellant has shown ‘sufficient cause’ for not filing the appeal, in time, within the meaning of proviso to Section 15 of the Act.
8. The appellant, along with the appeal, has filed an application seeking condonation of delay in filing the present appeal. The reasons for not filing the appeal in time have been stated in paras 2, 3 and 4 of the above said application and the same read as under :
'2. That the appellant received the order of Hon’ble Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum on - which was received by the employees of the appellant.
3. That the appellant was out of India and returned to India on - and came to know from the correspondence letters that the Hon’ble Forum has passed an order against the appellant by passing an ex-parte decree/award despite the case dismissed in default.
4. That the delay is not intentional but due to the regular outstation visits of the appellant, being the only organizer of the appellant firm at Delhi.'
9. On a bare perusal of the contents of the above said paras of the application, seeking condonation of delay, it is apparent that the appellant has not cared even to fill in the blanks in paras 2 and 3 of the application. It is not stated in para 2 of the application as to when the copy of the order, being impugned in the present proceedings, was received by the appellant. The ground taken in para 3 of the application is that the appellant was out of India. It is not stated in the application as to from which period to which period, the appellant was out of country and on which date he came back to India and when he came to know from the correspondence about the order being impugned in the present proceedings. The application is not even supported by an affidavit. Proof of ‘sufficient cause’, as has been held by the Hon’ble National Commission in case Vice Chairman, Delhi Development Authority v. O.P. Gauba, III (1995) CPJ 18 (NC)=1986-96 CONSUMER. 2731 (NS), is a condition precedent for the exercise of discretion. The delay in filing the appeal, as per statutory provisions, cannot be condoned as a matter of generosity and the same has to be satisfactorily explained by the appellant.
10. In the presence of the facts already stated and the position explained above, in our opinion, whatever liberal interpretation might be put on the words ‘sufficient cause’, it would be impossible for us to hold that there was no negligence or want of bona fides on the part of the appellant. In our opinion, as a matter of fact, in the given facts, the appellant has miserably failed to show ‘sufficient cause’ for condoning the delay and therefore, the application, seeking condonation of delay in filing the present appeal, is hereby rejected.
11. The present appeal, filed by the appellant, besides being barred by limitation, is also devoid of substance on merits because on a perusal of the impugned order, it is apparent that the learned
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District Forum, placing reliance on a decision of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in case Nath Brothers Exim International Limited v. Best Roadways Limited, reported as I (2000) CPJ 25 (SC)=III (2000) SLT 181, has held that there was deficiency in service on the part of the appellant and on the above ground has passed the order being impugned in the present proceedings. In our opinion, in the given facts, the order being impugned in the present proceedings, suffers from no infirmity so as to call for any interference by this Commission in exercise of its appellate powers. Thus, viewed from all angles, the present appeal, filed by the appellant, is devoid of substance. The same merits dismissal. Accordingly, the same is dismissed in limine with no order as to costs. Appeal dismissed.