“There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supersedes all other courts.”
~ Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
What if you have won your case in the consumer forum but the opposite party does not care to respond to the jury’s order, and does not pay up the ordered compensation or provide relief to you? Does it become a case of malicious intent on their part? What are the options before you, or for that matter, even before the opposite party?
In such cases, it becomes necessary to invoke another provision under Consumer Protection Act. One has to file a plea before the consumer court for ‘execution’ of the order, whereby the opposite party is forced by the law to obey the orders. The accused is monetarily penalized, their properties can be attached, or they can be imprisoned even, for not conforming to the decision of the court.
Interestingly, even the accused can reach out to the consumer forum for revision of the execution plea if they have doubts about the legality or correctness of the execution plea. Here we revisit one such case that was discussed and decided at the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum.
Appealing after 12 Years
A bench comprising Justice DK Jain, president of the forum, and M Shreesha heard the matter between JH Phalle and VijayaPoduval and others wherein an execution appeal had been filed at the National Consumer Forum against the order of Maharashtra State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission. This appeal had been filed by the managing director of real estate company Jaysheel Housing Complex, questioning the legality and correctness of the order passed by the state commission. This developer had failed to comply with the order that was given by the forum way back in 2002 and requested revision of the order only in 2014. By then, one of the complainants had died without relief.
The term ‘execution’, has not been defined in the code. The expression, however, simply means the process for enforcing or giving effect to the judgement of the court.
The case and the order
As the developer had failed to provide the committed property to the complainant, the state forum in its order directed the collector, Raigad district, to take appropriate steps for recovery of the amounts to be refunded to the complainants.
Objections filed by developer after 12 years
- Recovery certificate had been computed on yearly compounded basis, whereas the direction in the final order of the court had asked for payment of simple interest at 18 per cent annually.
- One of the complainants had died during the pendency of the complaint, so the decree sought to be enforced in his favour was null and void.
As the execution application was filed after 12 years from the date of the final order, it was barred by limitation and dismissed from being entertained by the forum.
The Bench’s statement
“It would be travesty of justice to non-suit complainants/decree holders on hyper technical ground. In view of the above, we decline to entertain the appeal keeping open the question of limitation, sought to be raised in this appeal. Consequently, the appeal is dismissed, leaving the parties to bear their own costs.”
Firstly, on the first issue of compounding interest rate raised by the appellant, the bench held that “...if that be so, it will be open to the parties to have the said issue resolved before the executing court (state forum in this case).”
On the issue of death of one of the complainants during the pendency of the complaint, which according to appellant made the order null and void, the court held, “We may note that the complaint was contested on behalf of the appellant and no objection with regard to abatement qua a particular complainant had been raised on its behalf. It would be travesty of justice to non-suit complainants/decree holders on hyper technical ground dismissing the plea of appellants.”
The case of unaddressed timeline
The aforementioned case is often discussed because although dismissed later, the plea had been somehow accepted in the first place by the National Commission for hearing. More so, when this order (and more such orders and verdicts) is read carefully, from one issue to another, one finds that the Commission has not given any verdict as yet on ‘limitation of time’ for filing execution pleas.
Other Verdicts where Timeline Was Not Considered
In the matter of SC Galhotra versus The Mohali Bank and others, the execution appeal was filed in September 2010 by the Haryana State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission. The question raised was whether the execution application was maintainable considering that the registrar, Cooperative Societies, Punjab, was on leave and the respondent, The Mohali Bank, had been brought under winding up (liquidation) and an official liquidator had been appointed.
In this case, application for execution was filed after more than eight years and was accepted by the court.
In the matter of Prem Chandra Varshney versus Murarilal Sharma and others, heard in September 2007, a reference was made to Clause IV of Regulation 14 (1) to underline the issue of timeline.
Point VIII in sections 15, 19 and 24A reads: “The period of limitation for filing any application, for which no period of limitation has been specified in the Act, the rules of these regulations shall be thirty days from the date of the cause of action or the date of knowledge.” However, the National Commission states that the plain reading of said Regulation 14 (1) (iv) shows that it will not apply to execution proceedings. Consumer Protection Act, 1986, does not provide for any limitation period for filing execution application.
In certain other cases, the National Commission has observed that while filing execution petition after years serves no purpose, the call should be made depending upon the nature of the order and circumstances of the case at the time the order is passed. In some vehicle-purchase cases, for example, it has been found that an order to change the defective vehicle with a new one or refund money after returning vehicle to the company becomes non-executable after a lapse of time. Similarly, in vehicle-insurance cases, an order for repair does not serve any purpose after a lapse of time since the vehicle condition deteriorates.