M.S. Rane, President
1. None for the respondents although served and postal acknowledgement evidencing receipt of the process is filed and taken on record.
2. We are proceeding to dispose of this appeal by making it returnable forthwith, considering the nature of order passed.
3. Appellant herein is the original complainant in the aforesaid complaint and against the order dated 6.11.2000 of District Forum, Nasik dismissing his complaint, he has approached the Commission in appeal.
4. By reading the impugned judgment of this appeal, it is noticed that the District Forum rejected the complaint of the complainant for non-compliance of pre-requisite formalities, pre-requisite to final disposal namely filing of the affidavit in proof and in support of the claim in the complaint.
5. Across the learned Advocate drew our attention to the copy of complaint filed before the District Forum, wherein the complainant has averred that whatever he has stated in the complaint is true and correct and the same be taken as on solemn affirmation and be read as his evidence in proof of claim in the complaint.
6. Further it is noticed that the complaint is not on affidavit. Affidavit has to be solemnly affirmed before the appropriate Authorities, which has not been done. That being so, the District Forum has proceeded to dismiss the complaint.
7. It is noticed that when District Forum took up the matter for final adjudication, the complainant was present before it.
8. It is also obligatory upon the parties to furnish the list of documents by exchanging the copies of the pleadings, etc. amongst themselves and Forum should give clear directions to that effect in its Show Cause Notice to be issued by it as provided under Section 13 of Consumer Protection Act, 1986. Similarly, it should also be ensured that when O.P. files his written version in answer to the case and claim of the complaint before the District Forum, the same is also accompanied with affidavit in proof of evidence of the defence of the O.P. and the list of documents proposed to be relied upon by the O.P. and copies thereof furnished to the complainant. Such steps would facilitate quick, fair and effectual disposal and adjudication of the consumer dispute, providing fair and reasonable opportunities to all the parties to the dispute. Since Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is the beneficient Statute, it is expected that Consumer Forums do not get unduly swayed with hypertechnicalities at the cost of justice.
9. At the same time, parties to the consumer disputes should adhere to the observance and compliance of formalities, as contained in Section 13 of Consumer Protection Act, 1986, which are minimum and not cumbersome or difficult to follow. Where the complainant alleges defect in the goods purchased or deficiency in service hired, the parties to the dispute must exercise diligence to take recourse to the provisions as contained in Section 13(1)(c) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, by obtaining the opinion of the expert/Authorized Laboratory at the earliest initial stage of the proceedings, which will facilitate speedy and meaningful adjudication and disposal. Experience however shows that such statutory obligation is observed in breach only.
10. In this regard, we would refer to the directions and guidelines issued by us in the matter being Appeal No. 2700 of 1998 decided on 17th February, 2000 in the case of Divisional Manager, Life Insurance Corporation of India & Anr. v. Smt. Sudhatai S. Avachite, which should be followed by Fora while disposing of consumer disputes. We reiterate the same in this judgment.
11. In the matter herein, as the position stands, in the interest of justice, complainant needs to be given a chance to have his claim thrashed out on merits, by allowing him to complete the formality of filing his affidavit in proof of evidence in respect of the claim in the complaint. We, therefore, allow this appeal by setting aside its impugned order and remit the same to the District Forum for consideration on merits in accordance with provisions of the Statute.
12. Claims brought before the Consumer Fora as the Statute itself provides, should be thrashed out on merits on consideration of material placed before it and Consumer Fora should not get unduly swayed by the technicalities. Nonetheless we wish to reiterate that certain methodology has to be followed in entertaining the complaints and settlement of the consumer disputes and minimum that is required is that at the time of filing of the complaints, it should be ensured that complainant files separate affidavit affirmed before the Competent Authority in proof of evidence of his claim in the complaint and the list, listing the documents, which he proposes to rely upon.
13. Furthermore, the same formality should also apply to the O.P. i.e. to say when the O.P. in response to the initial process received under Section 13 of Consumer Protection Act, 1986 of the District Forum appears, it is expected that he should also file his written statement accompanied by affidavit in proof of support of his defence and list of documents upon which, he proposes to rely upon.
14. The proceedings before the Consumer Fora as Consumer Protection Act, 1986 itself envisages are to be thrashed out by recourse to summary procedure. None the less in view of recent pronouncement of the Supreme Court as also of the National Commission, it has become imperative to the Consumer Forum to decide the dispute and claims of the parties by applying well recognized principles of law. Reference be made to the recent judgment in the case of Charan Singh v. Healing Touch Hospital & Ors., reported in III (2000) CPJ 1 (SC)=VI (2000) SLT 867=(2000) 7 SCC page 688.
15. With this clarification, in the interest of justice, we allow this appeal and set aside the order impugned in this appeal passed by the District Forum in Complaint No. 384/1999 and restore this complaint to its file for thrashing out on merits in accordance with the Law and the Rules.
1. Appeal is allowed and its impugned order dated 6.11.2001 is set aside and Complaint No. 384/1999 is restored to the file of the District Forum, Nasik.
2. District Forum, Nasik shall allow the complainant to file affidavit in proof of evidence in support of his claim in the complaint as also list of documents, which complainant shall file on 4.2.2002 before the District Forum
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and furnish copies thereof to the O.Ps. 3. District Forum shall also allow the O.Ps. to complete the said formalities if not done before. 4. Appellant’s Advocate shall furnish copy of the order herein to the District Forum, Nasik immediately. 5. District Forum thereafter shall proceed to dispose of the complaint expeditiously. 6. As far as this appeal is concerned, the same stands disposed of with no order as to costs. 7. Appellant’s Advocate shall also forward copy of the order herein to the O.Ps./respondents herein. 8. Office is directed to circulate copies of this judgment to all the District Forums in the State. Appeal allowed.