NANDAN BIOMATRIX LTD. Vs. S. AMBIKA DEVI
LAWS(SC)-2020-3-50
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
Decided on March 06,2020

Nandan Biomatrix Ltd. Appellant
VERSUS
S. Ambika Devi Respondents




JUDGEMENT

MOHAN M.SHANTANAGOUDAR,J. - (1.)The instant appeal arises against the order dated 15.04.2009 passed by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi ("the National Commission"), affirming the order dated 28.04.2008 of the Kerala State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission ("the State Commission") setting aside the order of the District Forum, Kozhikode dismissing the complaint and remanding the matter to the District Forum for disposal on merits.
(2.)The brief facts leading to this appeal are as follows:
2.1 The complainant (the Respondent herein) is a small landholder who responded to the advertisements issued by the Appellant, a seed company, in 2003, regarding buyback of safed musli, a medicinal crop, at attractive prices. She entered into a tripartite agreement dated 15.01.2004 with the Appellant and its franchisee M/s Herbz India. As per the agreement, the Respondent purchased 750 kgs of wet musli for sowing from the Appellant, at the rate of Rs. 400/- per kg, and cultivated the same in her land. The Appellant was to buy back the produce at a minimum price of Rs. 1,000/- per kg from the Respondent. The Respondent lodged a consumer complaint alleging negligence and breach of contract on the part of the Appellant on the ground that the Appellant failed to buy back her produce, leading to the destruction of the greater part of the crop.

2.2 The District Forum dismissed the complaint, and held that the same was not maintainable since the Respondent was not a "consumer" within the meaning of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 ("the 1986 Act"). On appeal by the Respondent, the State Commission set aside the order passed by the District Forum, holding that the Respondent was a "consumer" under the 1986 Act, and remanded the matter to the District Forum for disposal on merits. It is this order which was impugned before the National Commission by way of a revision petition filed by the Appellant.

2.3 The National Commission upheld the finding of the State Commission, holding that the covenants entered into between the parties were in the nature of both sale of product and rendering of service, since the Appellant had agreed to provide wet musli for growing to the Respondent, supplemented by technical support and guidance from its franchisee, and had further agreed to insure the crop at additional cost. Additionally, noting that the Respondent was a small landholder owning about 1-1.5 acres of land, who had started cultivation of musli for eking out a livelihood for herself, the National Commission held that it could not be said that the agreement was entered into for the commercial purpose of the Respondent. The Revision Petition was dismissed with a cost of Rs. 2,500/- imposed on the Appellant, payable to the Respondent.

2.4 The instant appeal has been filed against the above order of the National Commission.

(3.)Before us, learned Counsel for the Appellant, Mr. Raghenth Basant, argued that the Respondent was not a "consumer" as defined under Section 2(d) of the 1986 Act. Firstly, it was argued that the tripartite agreement envisaged buyback of musli by the Respondent from the Appellant, which amounted to resale, which is excluded from the purview of Section 2(d). Secondly, it was argued that the cultivation and sale of musli by the Respondent was for a commercial purpose and not for the purpose of earning livelihood, and hence excluded from the purview of Section 2(d).
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