Decided on January 02,2007



MUKUL MUDGAL, J. - (1.) This writ petition challenges the order dated 19th July, 2006 passed by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (hereinafter referred to as the Commission) in Original Petition No. 34 of 1994. A complaint was filed by the respondent M/s Rohit Chemicals and Allied Industries (Pvt) Ltd. and a claim of Rs.82,25,722.42 with interest was raised against the petitioner National Research and Development Corporation. The matter was referred to arbitration due to the then prevailing practice of the Commission of referring the disputes to an Arbitrator. Justice M.S. Gujral who was the arbitrator could not complete the arbitration due to his deteriorating health.
(2.) The Hon'ble Supreme Court in fact had an occasion to decry the practice of the Commission in appointing arbitrators in pending disputes, in Skypak Couriers Ltd. vs. Tata Chemicals Ltd., AIR 2000 SC 2008 and Neeraj Munjal and ors. vs. Atul Grover, 2005 (Suppl.) Arb. LR 22 (SC). In Neeraj Munjal's case while referring to Skypak Couriers' case, the Hon'ble Supreme Court held as follows:- "5. Section 22 of the Consumer Protection Act provides that the Commission shall have the powers of a Court. These powers would include the power to call for documents and take evidence either by itself or on Commission. However, the final adjudication has to be by the Commission. For purposes of this order we will presume, without laying down any law in this behalf, that the Commission may even refer disputes to Arbitration/Conciliation. However, such reference to Arbitration could only be under the provisions of Arbitration Act, 1940 or the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996. There is no provision in law and we consider it an unhealthy practice for Courts/Commission/Tribunal to abdicate their duties and functions and to delegate adjudication of disputes before them to third parties. The adjudication can only be by the concerned Court/Commission/Tribunal. For an effective adjudication the Commission/Court must address itself to the evidence, documents, respective case of the parties including submission on their behalf and then give a finding on that basis................ 8. The question then arises as to what is to happen in all these cases. As stated above, we have proceeded on the basis that all parties had consented to their matters being referred to third persons. All parties have participated in the proceedings before the third person. Awards have been passed. In our view, it would be inequitable to now set at naught all the awards and relegate the parties back to the original proceedings. In our view the reference being by consent, must now be treated as reference to Arbitration under the Arbitration Act. The award must be treated as awards of Arbitrators."
(3.) Consequent to the above position of law laid down by the Hon'ble Supreme Court, the complaint of the respondent against the petitioner was being heard in the Commission and the only issue urged in this Court related to the denial of the cross-examination of one Tilak Ram to the petitioner by the order dated 19th July 2006 impugned in this writ petition. The Commission had observed that the petitioner herein in spite of number of adjournments had failed to cross-examine the said Tilak Ram and the Arbitrator had therefore closed the cross-examination of the said witness. Accordingly, the Commission ECHO is on. held that since 11 years had gone in a protracted proceedings before the Arbitrator and the Commission, the Commission was required to decide the matter on the basis of evidence already recorded and documents produced before the Arbitrator Mr. Justice Gujral. It is this order which has been challenged in the writ petition.;

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