National Consumer Forum asks Shriram Finance & Citicorp to pay Rs25,000 as punitive cost
Upholding judgements of the district and state forums, the National Consumer Commission directed Shriram Finance Co and Citicorp Finance to pay a punitive cost of Rs25,000 for inordinate delay in filing their appeal
The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) while upholding the judgement of the district and state forum directed Shriram Finance Company (Shriram Finance) and Citicorp Finance (I) (Citicorp) to pay a punitive cost of Rs25,000 for inordinate delay in filing the appeal.
In an order on 21 May 2013, VB Gupta, presiding member and Rekha Gupta, both members of the NCDRC bench, said, “...grounds stated in the application (filed by Shriram Finance and Citicorp) cannot constitute sufficient cause so as to condone the inordinate delay of 128 days in filing of the appeal. Even otherwise, the district forum decided the complaint of the respondent about four and a half years ago and if such type of application for condonation of delay is allowed, then it would defeat the very object of the Act which provide for expeditious justice to the consumer."
The case relates to forceful possession and sale to a third party of a vehicle bought on loan by Panvel (Navi Mumbai) based Aziz Miya Patel. After his vehicle was taken over, Patel filed a complaint against Shriram and City Finance before the district forum. He stated deficiency in service in providing advance for purchase of the vehicle and taking forcible possession of the vehicle without the consent/ notice and prior intimation as reason for his complaint.
While allowing the complaint, the district forum on 6 December 2008 directed Shriram Finance and Citicorp to pay Rs8.55 lakh for causing damage and loss due to forcible possession of two vehicles and selling it to third party without prior notice or intimation to Patel.
The forum also directed the lender to pay Rs10,000 as compensation and Rs5,000 as cost to Patel.
Aggrieved by the order of the district forum, Shriram and City Finance filed their first appeal along with a miscellaneous application for delay. The Maharashtra State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission vide an impugned order, dismissed the application for condonation of delay and consequently the appeal was not entertained.
While rejecting the application of Shriram Finance and Citicorp, the state commission observed “To support the application for condonation of delay, affidavit of Nityanand S Vazhakulath (the concerned employee of Shriram Finance) dated 18 February 2011 is filed. This is nothing but the verification affidavit to the application for condonation of delay. Neither this application nor the affidavit speaks about the circumstances under which this employee suddenly required to leave for his native place and why he could not make arrangement regarding filing of appeal or brought it to the notice of his employer. Therefore, such statement itself is vague.”
The lenders then challenged the impugned order before the National Consumer Forum.
During the hearing, the counsel of Shriram Finance contended that delay caused in filing of the appeal was not intentional, since the concerned employee had to proceed suddenly to his native village due to some family problem and as such he has kept all the relevant documents of this case in his locker. After that employee returned to the office, immediately thereafter the appeal was filed, the lawyer said.
The NCDRC also noted that in his affidavit Nityanand S Vazhakulath nowhere specified the reason for his sudden departure to his native place; however, he tried to put the entire blame on their previous lawyer. “I say that the delay of 128 days in filing the appeal was not intentional but due to various circumstances and misguidance given by our earlier advocate,” the affidavit said.
The NCDRC bench said, under the Consumer Protection Act, a special period of limitation has been provided to ensure expeditious disposal of cases. Complaint has to be disposed of within 90 days from the date of filing where no expert evidence is required to be taken and within 150 days where expert evidence is required to be taken.
The bench also pointed out that Shriram Finance and Citicorp have filed application for bringing on record additional grounds in the case. It however, said, at this stage it cannot take into consideration the additional grounds that Shriram City wanted it to take now.
“We do not find any infirmity or illegality in the impugned order and there is no reason to disagree with the findings given by the state commission. Accordingly, the present revision petition, being not maintainable, is hereby dismissed with punitive cost of Rs25,000 and the same shall be paid by the petitioners to the respondent by way of demand draft in his name, within eight weeks," the NCDRC said in its order