(1.) BEING aggrieved by the judgement passed by the Central Mumbai District Consumer Forum in consumer complaint No. 181/1998 whereby the Forum below allowed the complaint partly and directed the MTNL/O.P. No. 1 to reconnect telephone No. 4379629 allotted to the complainant forthwith without asking the complainant to pay further charges and also awarded compensation of Rs. 50,000 for causing mental torture and agony and also directed to pay Rs. 25,000 towards damage for loss of goodwill and to pay Rs. 3,000 towards cost of proceeding, the MTNL has filed this appeal challenging the said judgment dated 31.10.2001.
(2.) THE facts to the extent material may be stated as under:
The complainant is resident of Duttaguru Society, Deonar, Mumbai occupying flat No. F -13. Dr. Suhasini Suresh Banawali i.e. wife of the complainant was having telephone connection in Sultan Mansion, Prabhadevi, Mumbai. At the result of old age, somewhere in 1990 Dr.Banawali discontinued her practice and surrendered her telephone allotted to her. Dr. Banawali granted permission to her husband Mr. Suresh Banawali to start his own business in the said premises at Prabhadevi. The complainant therefore in November 1992 took telephone connection bearing No. 4379629 in the premises, which was occupied earlier by his wife for her practice. However, address of billing for this connection was F -13, Duttaguru Society, Deonar, Mumbai, where Mr. Banawali resided. Mrs. Banawali, complainant's wife also permitted her son Mr. Satyesh Banawali to have telephone in his own name at the same premises at Prabhadevi, Mumbai for carrying on his business. The MTNL allotted telephone with distinctive number 4379630. So, both the telephones were installed on the same date in the premises of Prabhadevi. According to the complainant, the bills issued by the MTNL to him were exorbitant. His average bill was around Rs. 2,000 for every one billing period covering two months approximately. He therefore made complaint to the MTNL and paid the bill under protest. Though he lodged the complaint, the O.P. did not bother to give reply to his complaint for bimonthly bill of 1.6.1996 to 1.8.1996. Then another bill was issued to him for the period 1.8.1996 to 1.10.1996 amounting to Rs. 16,527. He again lodged complaint on 11.9.1996. The matter was taken up with higher authority. Thereafter, the MTNL adopted adamant attitude and did not look into his complaint and treated this amount of two bills as arrears and payable by the complainant. The complainant was not prepared to pay both the bills in full. He lodged complaint with Wadala Telephone Exchange against excessive billing, but paid the bill of Rs. 12,915 under protest. On 24.1.1997 MTNL disconnected the telephone of the complainant when investigation into his complaint was still incomplete. The complainant states that he was given rebate of 16707 calls after investigation made by the Deputy General Manager. Under the said letter, the complainant was advised that the bill for the balance amount in respect of disputed bills should be paid immediately within 15 days to avoid disconnection. According to the complainant, disconnection made on 24.1.1997 was without approval of the Competent Authority. The complainant pleaded that as result of rebate 16707 calls, the disputed amount was reduced to Rs. 4,898 and the complainant became entitled to refund of Rs. 8,017 out of bill of Rs. 12,915. The Wadala Telephone Exchange, Account Officer instead of refunding Rs. 8,017 informed the complainant that he was in arrears to the tune of Rs. 23,397 in respect of six bills and asked the complainant to pay the dues within seven days, lest he was threatened that his telephone would be discontinued without any further notice. The complainant states that O.P. No. 5 Account Officer disconnected his telephone No. 4379629 illegally and started sending bills to the complainant for rental only, when investigation was still in progress. According to the complainant, refund amount of Rs. 8,017 was payable to the complainant, leaving surplus of Rs. 815 to be adjusted in future bills covering in all six bills from 1.10.1996 to 1.10.1997. According to the complainant in totality of the above position, O.P. No. 5 Account Officer (TR) threatened disconnection of the telephone of the complainant whereas MTNL ought to have reconnected telephone No. 4379629 disconnected on 24.1.1997. The complainant then addressed a letter to O.P. Nos. 3 and 5 and requested them to reconnect telephone and as per his advice on 24.1.1997 he paid reconnection charges Rs. 105 to the MTNL. Thereafter MTNL sent letter dated 12.12.1997 and informed the complainant that there is outstanding bill of Rs. 20,695 in respect of another telephone No. 4379630 working in the same premises (i.e. belonging to his son) and he should pay the outstanding bill immediately before reconnection and restoration of his own telephone line. They asked the complainant to request his son Satyesh Banawali to pay the dues immediately. Thereafter, the complainant sent notice through his Advocate. According to the complainant even after settlement of dues, the MTNL was bound to reconnect telephone once subscriber complied with the legal requirements and it was not in the discretion of MTNL to disconnect telephone line on the ground that his son had not paid the dues in respect of telephone line which was exclusively taken by him in the same premises. Therefore, he filed consumer complaint and sought reconnection of his telephone No. 4379629 without being required to pay anything. He also claimed Rs. 2 lakh towards compensation for mental torture, Rs. 1 lakh compensation towards loss of business and goodwill.
(3.) IN affidavit in reply filed by the MTNL, it was pleaded that the complainant had telephone No. 4379629. The complainant complained about the bill dated 15.8.1996, which was for period 1.6.1996 to 1.8.1996. The complaint was forwarded to D.E. (INTL) on 20.9.1996. After due investigation, rebate of 7040 calls was given to the complainant and complainant was informed about it by letter dated 14.10.1997. Again there was complaint of complainant about the bill dated 15.10.1996 for period 1.8.1996 to 1.10.1996 that complaint was also investigated and after proper investigation, rebate of 9667 calls was given to the complainant and intimation to that effect was sent to the complainant on 14.10.1997. The complainant further submitted complaint regarding bill dated 15.8.1996. But the said Exchange being electronic one, the complainant was advised to pay bill amount in full to avoid disconnection of telephone No. 4379629. But, the subscriber did not pay the bill in full and therefore his telephone was disconnected on 24.1.1997 after following due process of law. According to the MTNL total rebate of 16707 calls amounting to Rs. 8,017 was given to the complainant. An amount of Rs. 7,202 was adjusted against the subsequent outstanding bill of the said amount and amount of Rs. 815 was still pending with the O.P. The MTNL official pleaded that the telephone of the complainant was disconnected on 24.1.1997 for non -payment of outstanding bills and therefore, process of reopening the said telephone was ordered. While processing reopening order, it was noticed that another telephone No. 4379630 in the name of son of the complainant installed in the same premises was having arrears of Rs. 20,698. In the circumstances, the complainant was requested to ensure that his son's telephone dues be paid immediately so that issue of reopening of complainant's telephone No. 4379629 was being considered. The MTNL Official in their pleading and affidavits categorically stated that telephone No. 4379629 was discontinued on 24.1.1997 for non -payment of outstanding dues and reopening of telephone was withheld since there was outstanding amount of Rs. 20,698 as against the telephone No. 4379630, which was standing in the name of his own son in the same premises. Therefore, the MTNL Official pleaded that the complaint as filed by the complainant is absolutely false, misconceived and should be dismissed.
Relying on affidavits and documents placed on record, the learned District Consumer Forum was pleased to allow the complaint and pass the operative order, which has been referred in the opening para of this judgement. As such, the MTNL has filed this appeal.;