Follow orders in time or go to jail: consumer panel

The Delhi Consumer Commission has sounded an alert by ruling that violators taking a consumer court’s order casually would invite penal consequences,including jail terms,if they failed to comply with the directives within the time allotted.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Published:January 20, 2009 12:34 am

The Delhi Consumer Commission has sounded an alert by ruling that violators taking a consumer court’s order casually would invite penal consequences,including jail terms,if they failed to comply with the directives within the time allotted.

The Commission,presided over by Justice J D Kapoor,has clarified that a consumer court’s order is to be adhered to within the stipulated time,and any inordinate delay would mean non-compliance with a judicial mandate.

If a company or a person chooses not to comply with a consumer court’s order within the fixed time,penalties can be initiated under provisions of the Consumer Protection Act,the Commission observed. “If a party is allowed to breach orders passed by the District Forum,then every party will try to breach the order despite there being direction to comply the same within one or two months,” Justice Kapoor said in a recent order.

The consumer panel also said that a party cannot argue that the order was eventually followed,if it was done after the stipulated time period. “It is misconceived notion that proceedings under Section 27 of the Act cannot be initiated,” Justice Kapoor held. “These proceedings can be initiated if the opposite party fails or omits to comply with the order within the stipulated period as provided by the District Forum or by the State Commission.”

Section 27 of the Act prescribes punishment up to a maximum of three years in jail along with penalty for violators. The

Commission’s observations came as it allowed an appeal by Shail Sahni,who had moved the panel against dismissal of his complaint by a forum.

While the consumer forum had,in October last year,asked ICICI Bank to pay Sahni Rs 1.61 lakh towards refund of a down-payment for his car and damages for mental agony caused due to repossession,it had refused to entertain his application seeking penalty for not complying with the order within the stipulated 60 days. The forum was of the opinion that once the order had already been complied with,the company could not be saddled with criminal liability.

Sahni thereafter approached the Commission,which noted that the consumer forum’s decision was a result of a “misconceived notion”,and that “mere compliance of the order beyond the stipulated time will not absolve the party from penal consequence”.

Allowing Sahni’s appeal,Justice Kapoor asked the forum to decide the matter afresh after considering the statutory provision in this regard.

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