NEW INDIA ASSURANCE CO. LTD Vs. HILLI MULTIPURPOSE COLD STORAGE PVT. LTD
LAWS(SC)-2020-3-29
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
Decided on March 04,2020

NEW INDIA ASSURANCE CO. LTD Appellant
VERSUS
Hilli Multipurpose Cold Storage Pvt. Ltd Respondents


Referred Judgements :-

DR. J. J. MERCHANT (SUPRA) AND NIA VS. HILLI MULTIPURPOSE COLD STORAGE [REFERRED TO]
TOPLINE SHOES LIMITED VS. CORPORATION BANK [REFERRED TO]
J J MERCHANT VS. SHARINATH CHATURVEDI [REFERRED TO]
KAILASH VS. NANHKU [REFERRED TO]
SALEM ADVOCATE BAR ASSOCIATION VS. UNION OF INDIA [REFERRED TO]



Cited Judgements :-

DIAMOND EXPORTS VS. UNITED INDIA INSURANCE COMPANY LIMITED [LAWS(SC)-2021-12-48] [REFERRED TO]
PRAKASH CORPORATES VS. DEE VEE PROJECTS LIMITED [LAWS(SC)-2022-2-51] [REFERRED TO]
DADDYS BUILDERS PVT. LTD VS. MANISHA BHARGAVA [LAWS(SC)-2021-2-35] [REFERRED TO]
I. SRINIVAS RAO VS. R. NAGESH [LAWS(NCD)-2022-7-37] [REFERRED TO]
MAA VINDHYAWASHINI RICE MILL PVT. LTD. VS. STATE OF BIHAR [LAWS(PAT)-2021-9-13] [REFERRED TO]
DR. RAJENDRA PRASAD CENTRE FOR OPHTHALMIC SCIENCES, AIIMS VS. JULIUS KACHHAP S/O. LT. VICTOR KACHHAP [LAWS(NCD)-2021-11-6] [REFERRED TO]
UNITECH - NCC (JV) VS. I.S.N. RAJU INFRASTRUCTURES (P) LIMITED AND ORS. [LAWS(APH)-2020-12-66] [REFERRED TO]
A. SURESH KUMAR VS. AMIT AGARWAL [LAWS(SC)-2021-7-17] [REFERRED TO]
MANISH KUMAR VS. ALL INDIA INSTITUTE OF MEDICAL SCIENCES [LAWS(DLH)-2021-3-69] [REFERRED TO]
NATIONAL INSURANCE CO. LTD. VS. VASANTHI [LAWS(NCD)-2021-3-38] [REFERRED TO]
POOJA RANI AND ORS. VS. KAMAL KUMAR TARNAICH AND ORS. [LAWS(P&H)-2020-11-119] [REFERRED TO]


JUDGEMENT

VINEET SARAN,J. - (1.)Leave granted.
(2.)The reference made to this Constitution Bench relates to the grant of time for filing response to a complaint under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (for short 'the Act'). The first question referred is as to whether Section 13(2) (a) of the Consumer Protection Act, which provides for the respondent/opposite party filing its response to the complaint within 30 days or such extended period, not exceeding 15 days, should be read as mandatory or directory; i.e., whether the District Forum has power to extend the time for filing the response beyond the period of 15 days, in addition to 30 days. The second question which is referred is as to what would be the commencing point of limitation of 30 days stipulated under the aforesaid Section.
(3.)The first question was referred by a two judge Bench of this Court vide an Order dated 11.02.2016 passed in Civil Appeal M/s Bhasin Infotech and No(s).10831084 of 2016, Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. versus M/s Grand Venezia Buyers Association (Reg), the relevant portion of which is as under:
"There is an apparent conflict between the decisions of this Court in Topline Shoes Limited vs. Corporation Bank [(2002) 6 SCC 33], Kailash Vs. Nankhu [(2005) 4 SCC 480], Salem Advocate Bar Association Vs. Union of India [(2005) 6 SCC 344] on the one hand and J.J. Merchant and Ors. Vs. Shrinath Chaturvedi [(2002) 6 SCC 635 and NIA Vs. Hilli Multipurpose Cold Storage [2014 AIOL 4615] on the other in so far as the power of the Courts to extend time for filing of written statement/reply to a complaint is concerned. The earlier mentioned line of decisions take the view that the relevant provisions including those of Order 8 Rule 1 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 are directory in nature and the Courts concerned have the power to extend time for filing the written statement. The second line of decisions which are also of coordinate Benches however takes a contrary view and hold that when it comes to power of the Consumer Fora to extend the time for filing a reply there is no such power.

Since the question that falls for determination here often arises before the Consumer Fora and Commissions all over the country it will be more appropriate if the conflict is resolved by an authoritative judgment. Further since the conflict is between Benches comprising three Judges we deem it fit to refer these appeals to a fiveJudge Bench to resolve the conflict once and for all. While we do so we are mindful of the fact that in the ordinary course a twoJudge Bench ought to make a reference to a threeJudge Bench in the first place but in the facts and circumstances of the case and keeping in view the fact that the conflict is between coordinate Benches comprising three Judges a reference to three Judges may not suffice."

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