AIR 2004 SC 184
R.C. Lahoti, Ashok Bhanu
29 August, 2003
Section 23 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
Brief Facts of the Case
In this particular case, the appellant had a savings bank account with the respondent bank. After few days, the appellant found out a certain problem at his account and on the basis of which he filed a complaint to the National Redressal Forum alleging deficiency of the services provided by the respondent and also submitted that the bank had mistakenly debited an amount of RS. 75,70,352 in the account of the appellant by honouring certain cheques as forged cheques i.e. fully fake and not appropriate and in some of the cheques that were submitted, the amount was wrongly tampered by someone. The photocopies of the fake cheques were submitted along with the complaint made. It came into notice that as many as around 72 cheques were issued on the same date when one of the persons who actually made the tampering at the cheque was found dead. The other one denied the signatures given and all such disputed signatures did not even tally the standard signatures of the complainant. The line of suspicion arose when the entire suspect went towards one of the employees of the bank who was suspected to be the main culprit of this entire scenario that happened. A complaint was filed in the police against that employee immediately and the case went to the Supreme Court of India at that instant. The court was entirely focusing on section 23 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 which talked about the Appeal with reference to subclauses of section 21 of the act. The court took help from the National Forum in order to have a detailed analysis of the case and therefore come into a conclusion so as to get the entire facts and to check whether the Respondents were actually guilty in this case or not. The court had given a detailed and equitable justice for the parties after looking into several other cases.
- Whether crime was committed by the respondents by tampering the cheques?
- Whether it was a case under section 23 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986?
- Whether it was the case of NCDRC?
The Judges of the particular case made a quite detailed judgement by analysing the matter quite properly with each and every issue being studied deeply. The complaint was filed under section 23 of the Consumer Protection Act. The main issue which arose over here was about determining the flora and fauna of the commission. The court had held that it cannot be denied that fora at the National Level, the State level and at the District level have been constituted under the Act with the avowed object of providing a summary and speedy remedy in conformity with the principles of natural justice, taking care of such grievances as are amenable to the jurisdiction of the fora established under the Act. These fora have been established and conferred with jurisdiction in addition to the conventional courts. The principal object sought to be achieved by establishing such fora is to relieve the conventional courts of their burden which is ever-increasing with the mounting arrears and whereat the disposal is delayed because of the complicated and detailed procedure which at times is accompanied by technicalities. The court took cognizance of landmark cases like Dr. J.J Merchant & Ors. v. Srinath Chaturvedi,  6 SCC 635, Indian Medical Association v. V.P. Shantha and Ors.,  6 SCC 651 and Amar Jwala Paper Mills (India) and Am. v. State Bank of India,  8 SCC 387. In each of the cases, the judges had a really different opinion on the basis of the exact flora and fauna of the commissions and the hierarchy in which it actually works. Like for supposing in the case of Amar Jwala Paper Mills (India) and Anr. ‘s case the Court had set aside the order of NCDRC relegating a complainant to a Civil Court in spite of the complexity of the matter because the hearing had almost concluded before the Commission. Therefore, after looking into the arguments advanced, issues raised and also a detailed study of the entire case, the court had held that the decision that was given by the NCDRC was a premature opinion. The entire commission seeks to have issued a particular notice to the respondents and which was taken as pleadings. Only when pleadings for both of the parties were available, the commission at that instant should have formed an opinion on the basis of nature and also the scope of the enquiry which means whether all the questions that arose in the light of the proceedings of both the parties were actually detailed and even a complicated nature of the investigation was made into the facts which were not at all capable of being taken in a speedy manner. The commission then could have formed justifiably an opinion which could have been proved a lot useful for removing the complaint to the civil court. It was just a complicated nature of the entire facts and also the law for the decision which could not be decisive at all. The appeal was allowed and the decision of the National Commission was set aside. The case was again sent back to the commission for fresh hearing and fresh study of nature and then taking a final decision. There was no order made with respect to the costs of the case. Thus, the court made and equitable decision which was quite relevant too because the commission did not perform their job nicely. They should have studied the entire case deeply and then they should have decided whether this case actually had a proper judgement or not.
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