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Divisional Forum empowered to entertain consumer complaint beyond limitation: HC

Post by Syed Rukaya on Friday, January 6, 2023

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Srinagar, Jan 05: The High Court of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh has ruled that the Divisional Forum or State Commission is empowered to entertain a consumer complaint beyond limitation.
However, the court said that the complaint should not be entertained unless it is filed within two years, which is a prescription directory in nature.
A division bench comprising Justices Sanjeev Kumar and Moksha Khajuria Kazmi while relying on a division bench judgment of the court in Insurance Company Vs. Posnkar Nath Pandita & Sons recorded that Section 18-A of J&K Consumer Protection Act, 1987 read in its entirety would mean that ordinarily a consumer complaint is required to be filed within two years from the date of accrual of cause of action.
However, it is always in the discretion of the Divisional Forum or Consumer Commission to entertain such complaints even beyond the period of two years, though such discretion must be informed by reasons to be recorded while condoning the delay, the bench said.
That apart, the bench underscored that the delay in filing the complaint can also be condoned on the complainant demonstrating sufficient cause for not filing the complaint within the limitation period.
"It would, therefore, emerge that in an appropriate case and for reasons to be recorded, the Divisional Forum/ State Commission are empowered to entertain complaint beyond limitation. The complaint should not be entertained unless it is filed within two years, is a prescription directory in nature," the court ruled.
The bench passed the rulings in a plea by United India Insurance Company Limited challenging the order passed by J&K State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Srinagar, on January 01, 2013 wherein the Commission allowed an appeal filed by Truck owner condoning the delay of two years in instituting the complaint before Divisional Consumer Protection Forum.
The complaint was filed by the vehicle owner before the Divisional Forum on December 31, 2009 seeking indemnification of the loss suffered by him on account of damage to the insured vehicle in the accident from the insurance company.
The court pointed out that the accident took place on September 17, 2007, but the claim for indemnification lodged by the vehicle owner was formally repudiated on September 23, 2009. 
It noted that the repudiation of the claim cannot be but a cause of action to file the complaint.
The court held that the cause of action may accrue at different stages and at different points of time, however, for the purposes of reckoning the period of limitation, what is relevant is the date when the cause of action last accrued.
It recorded that the cause of action in the case of a contract of insurance shall also accrue on the date the claim, if any, lodged by the insured is repudiated.
Dismissing the plea, the bench said that the complaint filed by the vehicle owner was in time.
"Otherwise also, there is wide discretion vested in the Divisional Forum/ State Commission to condone the delay beyond two years in an appropriate case by passing a speaking order," the court said and directed the District Commission under the Consumer Protection Act, to proceed in the complaint and decide the same on merits. 

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