The Top 10 Consumer Court Cases and Trails In India

Last Updated at: April 23, 2020
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The Top 10 Consumer Court Cases and Trials In India

People buy goods and services an inevitable process of their daily lives. We all need food clothing and shelter, which forms the basic necessities of our lives. And with the growing dependency on technology, it has also formed in some shape or form, a basic necessity. The world revolves around technology and the internet. While purchasing goods or services, you can come upon various problems from the one who delivers your goods or the service provider or an online vendor or anyone else.

Here are the top 10 Consumer Cases In India that saw justice prevail in the side of the consumer. For more information, we present you this unique blog.

1. Corporate Bodies can be sued under the Consumer Protection Act (CPA)

consumer complaint

Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation (KPTC) v Ashok Iron Works Private Limited

How the factual matter of the case arose

The case dates back to the last century, when in 1991, Ashok Iron Works, a private company that manufactures iron applied for obtaining electricity from the state’s power generation company – the Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation (hereinafter KTPC) for commencing its iron production. However, despite paying charges and obtaining confirmation for the supply of 1500 KVA energy in February 1991, the actual supply did not begin until ten months later, in November 1991.  This delay led to incurring of losses by the private company. This prompted a complaint to the Belgaum Consumer Dispute Forum and later Karnataka High Court, under the Consumer Protection Act 1986 for the delay in supply of electricity.

Legal Arguments by KPTC

  • Commercial supply not covered under the act – The major argument relied on by the power generation company KTPC was that the complaint was not maintainable since the Consumer Protection Act 1986 excludes commercial supply of goods. The applicant company was engaged in manufacturing of iron, and hence, intended to use the electricity for commercial consumption, which is excluded under the act.
  • A private company is not a consumer – The other argument by KTPC was that the complaint is not maintainable because the complainant is not a `person’ under Section 2(1)(m) of the Act, 1986. This section defines who can be included as a consumer, and because it didn’t contain “a company incorporated under Companies Act” – the applicant company is not a consumer.

Supreme Court Ruling in the case

  • “Includes – is an inclusive definition” – Supreme Court relied on the ruling in Dilworth v. Commissioner of Stamps, where Lord Watson said that the word “include” is very generally used in interpretation clauses in order to enlarge the meaning of words or phrases occurring in the body of the statute; It may be equivalent to “mean and include”. The court also relied on other acts such as the General Clauses Act that includes a private company within the purview of the definition of a “person”. Hence, Ashok Iron Works Private Company was held to be a person.
  • Supply doesn’t mean sale – The Supreme Court relied on another case – Southern Petrochemical Industries, where it was held that supply is not equivalent to a sale. Therefore, the supply of electricity by the KPTC to a consumer would be covered under Section 2(1)(o) being `service’ and if the supply of electrical energy to a consumer is not provided in time as is agreed upon, then under Section (2)(1)(g), there may be a case for deficiency in service. Thus, the clause stating “supply” of goods for commercial purpose would not apply.

Thus, the court allowed the complaint on the two grounds that the applicant – Ashok Iron Works Private Limited, can sue as a person, and that supply of electricity, if found deficient can be a fit ground for claiming compensation. The Supreme Court sent the case back to District Forum for retrial on these grounds.

2. Medical services fall within the scope of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA)

consumer complaints india

Indian Medical Association v V.P. Shantha and others

The factual background of the case

The cases arise as a writ petition was filed by the Indian Medical Association seeking the Supreme Court to declare that the Consumer Protection Act (hereinafter “Act”) doesn’t apply to the medical profession.

Questions involved in the case –

  1. Whether a medical practitioner can be regarded as rendering ‘service’ under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986?
  2. If a medical service is rendered for free, will it be covered under the Act?

Arguments by Indian Medical Association –

Reliance on cases which state that such medical service by a government healthcare system is not a service” – It has been held that the payment of direct or indirect taxes by the public does not constitute “constitute “consideration” paid for hiring the services rendered in the Government hospitals. It has also been held that contribution made by a Government employee in the Central Government Health Scheme or such other similar Scheme does not make him a “consumer” within the meaning of the Act.

Medical professionals are governed by a separate Code of Medical Ethics –

medical practitioners are governed by the provisions of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 and the Code of Medical Ethics made by the Medical Council of India. In the matter of professional liability, professions differ from other occupations for the reason that professions operate in spheres where success cannot be achieved in every case and very often success or failure depends upon factors beyond the professional man’s control. Thus, since medical negligence can be dealt with by medical experts in their own jurisdiction, the Consumer Protection Act shouldn’t apply.

There is no expert in medical science in the Consumer Courts –

The Consumer Protection mechanism provides that there must be experts in accountancy, law, economics, industry etc, but doesn’t mention “medical science”, therefore, the act intended to exclude medical profession from its ambit.

Reasoning of the final verdict – Medical professionals are covered under the Consumer Protection Act

  • The medical practitioner and a patient carries within it a certain degree of mutual confidence and trust and, therefore, the services rendered by the medical practitioner can be regarded as services of personal nature, but it is not a contract (such as that between a buyer and seller) and hence, the exclusionary word “contract of personal service” would not apply. Thus, the receiver of the medical help is a consumer.
  • The Court held that District, State and National Consumer Fora can summon experts in the field of medicine, examine evidence and generally act to protect the interest of consumers. Thus, there is no legal bar or deficiency in examining medical profession cases by consumer courts.
  • Doctors and hospitals who render service without any charge whatsoever to every person availing the service would not fall within the ambit of “service”.
  • In a government hospital, where services are provided free of charge – the Consumer Protection act would not apply. If however, there are paying customers and well as service being provided for free to the poor, it shall be covered as a service under the act.
  • If the insurance policy company pays for the treatment, it is on behalf of the customer, and hence, it will be covered under the Act.

3. Medical services should be rendered in accordance with the law

Arvind Shah (Dr.) vs Kamlaben Kushwaha

(Dr.) Arvind Shah vs Kamlaben Kushwaha

The factual background of the case

The case arises as a result of the death of complainant Kamlaben Kushwaha’s 20-year-old son due to medical negligence by the petitioner doctor. The mother alleged that the medicines prescribed had no relation to the ailment – malaria, whereas the actual cause of death was said to be pulmonary oedema. The doctor alleged that he did not diagnose the deceased for malaria, as pathological tests are necessary to establish that conclusively, and no such report was made available to him.  While the State Commission found the doctor guilty of medical negligence and awarded a compensation of 5 lac rupees with interest at 9%, the case was appealed by the doctor in the National Commission.

Basic question that the National Commission sought to answer –

– If and in what circumstance can a doctor be held guilty of medical negligence

– Appropriate compensation for a case of medical negligence

Reasoning and Decision of the National Commission  – Failure to write a prescription gives rise to guilt under medical negligence

  • The National Commission places reliance on the codes, ethics and practices of the medical professionals regulatory bodies and notes that every doctor while treating a patient, even outpatients, is under a responsibility to record basic health parameters such as blood pressure, temperature, pulse rate etc. This is provided under guidelines of the Medical Council of India as well.
  • This record must also include brief summary of the symptoms, past illnesses. This is a primary duty of disclosure owed by the physician to the patient. Thus, failure to record such details constitutes medical negligence.
  • The national commission also highlighted that the doctor is guilty for deficiency in service, due to his failure to record the patient’s conditions and issue a medical prescription.
  • The national commission also notes the denial of the doctor of having written the prescription served as evidence in the first place, but later accepts treating the patient. This conduct, in the language of the commission, does not reflect professional conduct worthy of a medical practitioner.
  • Considering the socio-economic conditions in India, it is necessary to nurture doctor-patient relationships based on trust. Having a ready prescription also helps the patient consult another doctor, in case the initially prescribed line of curative medicine does not work. Similarly, it helps the medical practitioner establish that due care was taken according to prescribed standards in the field of medicine.
  • The Commission noted that while the doctor is indisputably held guilty of medical negligence by not issuing a proper prescription, there is no material available on record to conclusively establish the negligence of the doctor with the cause of death. The medicines prescribed were not related to the established cause of death – pulmonary oedema. As a result, the amount of damages ordered by the State Commission were reduced by the National Commission to Rs. 2.5 lacs.

4. Medical services should be rendered in accordance with the law

4-Medical Service with law

Poonam Verma v. Ashwin Patel

The factual background of the case

In this case, the respondent doctor, Ashwin Patel, was trained in homoeopathy for four years and started his private practice. The appellant Poonam Verma, approached the Supreme court for compensation for her deceased husband, who was administered allopathic drugs for viral fever, and later typhoid fever by the homoeopathy doctor. Her husband passed away within eight days of the treatment.

Questions before the court

  • Whether the appellant’s husband is a consumer, who can avail damages for negligence in service?
  • Whether the conduct of the respondent doctor is negligent, and there is a breach of duty of care?
  • Determining the amount of damages to the deceased’s wife

The reasoning of the court – Prescription of Allopathic drugs by a homoeopathy doctor amounts to negligence

Deceased was a consumer of medical services – The Court relied on the reasoning in the classic case Indian Medical Association v. BP Shantha, and held that the Consumer Protection Act is applicable to medical professionals, including hospitals and private practitioners. Thus, the deceased was a “consumer” of the medical services.

  • Determinants of negligent conduct by a doctor – The Court relied on a case to hold that a doctor, when consulted by a patient, owes him certain duties, namely, (a) a duty of care in deciding whether to undertake the case; (b) a duty of care in deciding what treatment to give; and (c) a duty of care in the administration of that treatment. A breach of any of these duties gives a cause of action for negligence to the patient.
  • The National Consumer Forum held that the doctor was negligent in administering strong antibiotics to Pramod Verma initially for the treatment of Viral Fever and subsequently for Typhoid Fever without confirming the diagnosis by Blood Test or Urine Examination.
  • Registration to practice bars Homeopathy practitioners from Allopathy – The Court placed reliance on provisions of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 and Maharashtra Medical Council Act, which state that a person cannot practice medicine in any state unless he possesses requisite qualification and is enrolled as a Medical Practitioner. The definition of medical practitioner does not include Ayurveda, Unani, Homeopathy, or Biochemic System of medicines.
  • Further, the certificate of registration issued to such homeopathy practitioners states that it entitles them to practice in “Homeopathy Only”. Thus, in accordance with established legal cases, rules of medical negligence, evidence in the form of prescriptions, the court reiterated the principle – Sic Utere tuo ut alienum non loedas– a person is held liable at law for the consequences of his negligence and held the doctor guilty of active negligence.
  • Compensation and Costs – The Court decided a compensation of ₹ 3 lacs while considering the last drawn salary of the deceased and the number of dependents. Legal costs in the case were also reimbursed, and the Court directed the Medical Council of India to initiate appropriate proceedings against the action of the homeopathy doctor.

5. Educational institutions must refund any extra fee paid

Sehgal School of Competition v Dalbir Singh

The factual background of the case 

In this landmark judgement concerning educational institutions that dates back to the year 2005, a student was asked to deposit lump sum fees of ₹18,734 as fees for coaching for medical entrance examinations for the next two years. This was deposited by the student in two complete instalments within the first six months of classes. However, the student realised later that the quality of the coaching institute was substandard, and therefore sought a refund for the remaining period, which was refused by the coaching institute. 

Questions before the court

  • Can a student seek a refund of fees paid to a coaching class for the remaining period of classes that are yet to be held? 
  • In case of a refusal to refund fee, can a claim for mental agony for pressing legal charges to be sought? 

The reasoning of the Commission – Upholding student’s right to be refunded for remaining classes

  • Clauses prohibiting refund of fees are unfair – The Commission notes that educational institutes or coaching centre that charge a lump sum fees for the whole duration or should refund the fees if service is deficient in the quality of coaching etc. Any clause saying that fees once paid shall not be refunded is unconscionable and unfair and therefore not enforceable. This view was maintained by District and State Forums as well as in appeal by the National Commission. 
  • Quashing respondent’s argument on the reservation of seat – The respondent coaching centre argued before the commission that the student had withdrawn voluntarily and, therefore, there exists no deficiency of service. They submitted records that showed good results of the institute and alleged that it was wrong to observe that their coaching was not up to the mark. To justify taking the entire fees of two years lump sump, it was stated that the conditions imposed by the coaching required non-transferability of the seat, and therefore no refund of the fee was possible under any circumstance. The court dismissed this argument and further quoted UGC guidelines that mention that even if a student has not attended even a single class, an amount of ₹1000 may be deducted and proportionate charges for hostel fees, etc, and the balance amount has to be refunded in its entirety. On blocking of the seat, the Commission advised that a reserve list of candidates may be maintained, and waitlisted candidates may be given the opportunity to apply for the seat. 
  • Additional compensation – In the order by State Consumer Forum, it was mentioned that not just the balance amount of fee, but also a higher compensation for legal costs as well as the pain that the student had to undertake, could be availed in such cases. 

6. Sympathy should not influence compensation.

Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences vs. Prasanth S Dhankara and Others Factual background of the case - This consumer case arises out of a complaint of medical negligence where a 20 year old engineering student was admitted to the Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS), after he complained of chest pain. Several tests and X rays were done that revealed a tumour, however it could not be ascertained whether the tumour was malignant or not, therefore, the patient was advised to undergo surgical removal of the same. After the surgery, the patient developed acute paraplegia with a complete loss of control over the lower limbs, and some other related complications that led to urinary tract infections, bed sores etc. The family of the patient held NIMS vicariously liable and the State of Andhra Pradesh statutorily liable (being a government hospital) for the negligence of the doctors concerned. Allegations was primarily levelled against a doctor, Dr. P.V. Satyanarayana for negligence before, during and after the operation. Arguments by the patient’s family - The father of the patient, since he was an engineering student, had pleaded with doctors to let him finish his education first before undergoing the operation as there was no emergency or immediate danger to life - There were no pre-operative tests conducted - Operating on the tumour that had neurological implications, there was no neurosurgeon present - Consent was taken only for the tumour excision, however the doctors removed not just the tumour but also surrounding ribs, tumour mass and destroyed blood vessels that led to the condition of paraplegia (paralysis). Supreme Court verdict Consent by patient - The Court trashed the argument by the hospital that since the patient was not conscious - implied consent to operate is assumed to avoid a second additional operation. Negligence by a medical professional - The Court looked at various cases of medical negligence and held that as long as a doctor follows a practice acceptable to the medical profession, he cannot be held liable for negligence merely because a better alternative course or method of treatment was also available. This also includes a scenario where just because a more skilled doctor would not have chosen to follow a practice or procedure which the accused followed. The conduct needs to be judged based on the day of the operation, and not on trial. However, based on the evidence in this case, gross negligence is made out in part of the doctors. Compensation - “Balance between multiple parties while awarding compensation” • While holding the doctors of NIMS liable, the court considers the following - compensation for i) present burden of medical expenses, ii) prospective burden of expenses, iii) loss of future earnings, iv) pain, suffering, loss of amenities and enjoyment of life and shortening of life expectancy and v) damages / compensation for father, mother, brother and maternal uncle of the patient who will now be wheelchair bound for the rest of his life. • Under multiple heads cumulatively, the court awarded damages worth ₹ 1 crore. However, the court also rejected some amounts claimed by the patient as unjust - such as ₹2 crores in a deposit form, to be withdrawn if a future medical development allows his condition to improve. • The Supreme Court mentions that award of compensation is a balance between many parties and interests, and sympathy for the patient must not come in way of awarding a fair and adequate compensation.

Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences v Prasanth S. Dhananka & Ors

Factual Background of the case

This consumer case arises out of a complaint of medical negligence where a 20-year-old engineering student was admitted to the Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS) after he complained of chest pain. Several tests and X rays were done that revealed a tumor, however, it could not be ascertained whether the tumor was malignant or not, therefore, the patient was advised to undergo surgical removal of the same. After the surgery, the patient developed acute paraplegia with a complete loss of control over the lower limbs and some other related complications that led to urinary tract infections, bedsores, etc. The family of the patient held NIMS vicariously liable and the State of Andhra Pradesh statutorily liable (being a government hospital) for the negligence of the doctors concerned. Allegations were primarily leveled against a doctor, Dr. P.V. Satyanarayana for negligence before, during, and after the operation.

Arguments by the patient’s family

  • The father of the patient, since he was an engineering student, had pleaded with doctors to let him finish his education first before undergoing the operation as there was no emergency or immediate danger to life
  • There were no pre-operative tests conducted
  • Operating on the tumor that had neurological implications, there was no neurosurgeon present
  • Consent was taken only for the tumor excision, however, the doctors removed not just the tumor but also surrounding ribs, tumor mass, and destroyed blood vessels that led to the condition of paraplegia (paralysis).

Supreme Court verdict

Consent by the patient – The Court trashed the argument by the hospital that since the patient was not conscious – implied consent to operate is assumed to avoid a second additional operation.

Negligence by a medical professional – The Court looked at various cases of medical negligence and held that as long as a doctor follows a practice acceptable to the medical profession, he cannot be held liable for negligence merely because a better alternative course or method of treatment was also available. This also includes a scenario where just because a more skilled doctor would not have chosen to follow a practice or procedure which the accused followed. The conduct needs to be judged based on the day of the operation, and not on trial. However, based on the evidence, in this case, gross negligence is made out in part of the doctors.

Compensation – “Balance between multiple parties while awarding compensation”

  • While holding the doctors of NIMS liable, the court considers the following – compensation for i) present burden of medical expenses, ii) prospective burden of expenses, iii) loss of future earnings, iv) pain, suffering, loss of amenities and enjoyment of life and shortening of life expectancy and v) damages/compensation for father, mother, brother and maternal uncle of the patient who will now be wheelchair-bound for the rest of his life.
  • Under multiple heads cumulatively, the court awarded damages worth ₹ 1 crore. However, the court also rejected some amounts claimed by the patient as unjust – such as ₹2 crores in a deposit form, to be withdrawn if a future medical development allows his condition to improve.
  • The Supreme Court mentions that the award of compensation is a balance between many parties and interests, and sympathy for the patient must not come in way of awarding a fair and adequate compensation.

7. Discovery rule for medical negligence.

V.N.Shrikhande v. Anita Sena Fernandes

Factual Background of the case

This consumer case is decided by the Supreme Court of India on appeal from the orders of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission. The case involves the petitioner – Anita Sena, who was a nurse by profession. She underwent a stone removal surgery from her gall bladder but claimed that she continued to experience pain. For nine years, she had a gauge left in her abdomen by the surgeon who operated on her. This required a second surgery, and sufferance for many years – therefore, charges for negligence and compensation of Rs.50 lakhs was demanded by the petitioner.

The Essential question before the court:

Whether a petitioner can still approach the court for a deficiency in service after nine years and would it be barred by limitation?

Principles applied by the court:

When can a court accept the consumer case – The court lists that the matter must satisfy certain essentials. The petitioner should fall within the definition of ‘consumer’ as defined in the act and there must be a ‘defect’ or ‘deficiency in service’, and the complaint should have been filed within the prescribed period of limitation, only then it can direct that the complaint may be proceeded with.

The Discovery Rule of limitation – Limitation is a legal concept that puts a restriction on one’s ability to approach the court after a period of delay. This has been introduced to keep a check on frivolous cases, and act as a disincentive for people have not been mindful of enforcing their rights. It also insulates defendants from defending very old claims. In medical cases, the court states the regular limitation period under the act must not apply. It refers to an American case, where a surgical sponge left behind in a patient’s body was discovered after ten long and painful years. It held that where a foreign object has negligently been left in the patient’s body, the limitation period will not begin to run until the patient could have reasonably discovered the malpractice.

Application of these to the present case – Rejecting the case on limitation and evidentiary grounds

The Court while highlighting the Discovery Rule categorically says that it is not applicable in the present case due to the below-mentioned reasons.

  • Since the petitioner was a nurse working in a hospital, it was reasonably expected of her to have contacted the appellant and apprised him about her pain and agony and sought his advice. Neither did the petitioner contact her operating surgeon, nor any other doctor of the hospital she was employed in, in these nine years.
  • During the discovery of gauze in her abdomen, the operating surgeon would have taken appropriate action for extracting the same without requiring the respondent to pay for it.
  • Any person of ordinary prudence, who may have suffered pain and discomfort after surgery would have consulted the concerned surgeon or any other competent doctor and sought his advice but the petitioner-nurse did nothing except taking some pain killers. Thus, her long silence militates against the claim for compensation and hence, the complaint was dismissed.

8.  Both parents and minor can claim for compensation under the Consumer Protection Act

Spring meadows hospital v. Harjot Ahluwalia

The Factual Background of the case

This landmark case arises out of a complaint against Spring Meadows Hospital, where the minor child – Harjot Ahluwalia was admitted by his parents. The child was diagnosed with typhoid and was injected a solution by a nurse after which his condition deteriorated. He was shifted to an auto respiratory ICU at AIIMS, where it was found that due to the injection administered, his brain got damaged and he would only live in a vegetative state for life. The parents of the child approached the court for a case of medical negligence and demanded compensation, on behalf of the child.

The Essential question before the court

⁃ Can parents of the child, being the consumer, approach the court for availing compensation?

⁃ Can the court award compensation to the parents for mental agony?

Arguments by the nurse and the hospital

⁃ There was no medical negligence as the nurse was professionally qualified

⁃ The solution of the injection administered was already being given in the oral form, hence the nurse did not do any test for injection.

⁃ The nurse did not exercise independent decision, was only acting as per directions of the pediatrician.

⁃ The hospital also argues that compensation cannot be claimed twice, by both the child and his parents.

⁃ The hospital also sought refuge in the fact that after the child was declared vegetative by AIIMS, they volunteered to offer medical services without charge to the parents.

The court while making a case for gross negligence quashed these arguments and held the hospital responsible, for the medical college of the nurse had no affiliation, the injection overdose had led to the child’s brain damage and there was no resident doctor present.

The reasoning of the court

  • Definition of consumer wide enough to cover the beneficiary: When a young child is taken to a hospital by his/her parents and the child is treated by the doctor, the parents would come within the definition of the consumer having hired the services, and the young child would also become a “consumer” under the inclusive definition.
  • Compensation can justifiably be claimed by both parents as well as the child: The court states that the child is justified in seeking compensation for the recurring medical expenses, equipment, etc, for the vegetative state he is rendered in. The parents are also, as beneficiaries entitled to seek compensation for the pain, acute mental agony and lifelong care that they’d be required to give to the child. As a result, the court upheld the compensation of Rs.17.5 lakhs awarded by the National Commission, which was also the highest amount ever awarded until the case was decided in 1997.

9. Imposition of penalty for frivolous consumer claims

Sapient Corporation Employees Provident Fund Trust v HDFC & Ors.

Factual Background of the case

This case arises as a result of a complaint of an alleged wrongful debit from a bank account. The complainant trust – Sapient Corporation Employees Provident Fund Trust maintained an account with the respondent HDFC Bank. The bank received instructions from the Employee Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) that mentioned order of payment of ₹1.47 crores against the trust, and that no other payments from the trust’s account be made until EPFO’s liability is settled by the trust. The trust, however, issued an instruction to the bank not to debit any amount until further communication as they wanted to seek a stay order. However, in payment of the statutory due to EPFO, the bank, after giving due time, debit the account with an amount of ₹1.47 crores. The trust has challenged this as a deficiency in service and demanded the amount debited along with interest, damages, and legal expenses.

Essential Question before the National Commission

  • Whether the bank committed any default by paying an amount payable as a statutory due decided by a judicial order?
  • Can a bank be held guilty for deficiency in service for paying a rightful due?

Court – No deficiency in service for releasing an amount due on court order

No negligence or deficiency in service by HDFC Bank – The Commission dismissed the argument of the complainant that without any authority or mandate, debiting the amount due to EPFO of ₹1.4 crores is a deficiency in service. An action in compliance with the direction of a statutory authority such as EPFO cannot be said to be willful negligence or deficiency in service. The bank also informed the trust, as its customer, and gave them due time. Hence, the action is legal and proper.

Frivolous consumer cases are to be penalized – As per Section 26 of the Consumer Act, any consumer fora under the act has the power to dismiss a complaint made frivolously or one that is vexatious or unnecessary. Further, the court notices that the trust has already won the appeal from EPFO orders at the Appellate stage, whereby they would receive the entire amount with interest. Therefore, the case is without any merit and no remedy is made. For this false litigation, the court imposed a penalty of ₹25,000 on the complainant trust that would be paid to the HDFC Bank.

10. Compensation to the complainants for frivolous appeals.

Delhi Development Authority v D.C. Sharma

Factual Background of the case

In this case, DC Sharma (respondent), a government servant paid an initial amount for allotment of a plot of ₹ 5 lacs in 1997, by the Delhi Development Authority (hereinafter called DDA). He requested extra time for the instalment payment as he wished to avail loan facility from his office. Meanwhile, it was realised that the plot allotted to him through a draw of lots had already been allotted to another person, two years before the draw of lots. Due to this negligence of the DDA, the respondent approached the District forum, that dismissed the case. Subsequently, the state Consumer forum was approached that passed an order in favour of the respondent.

Order of the State Commission

The state commission in its order held the state responsible, for DDA is a government entity. It directed DDA to allot an alternative plot of the same kind or pay the escalated price of ₹30 lacs. The DDA relies on a frivolous argument that the case is liable to be dismissed since the respondent did not pay the instalment and therefore, his application stood rejected. Whereas, in reality, the allotted plot number has already been assigned to someone back in 1995 and the DDA took no steps to correct its own error in the allotment.

Order of the National Commission

Government departments such as DDA harassing genuine buyers in technical pleas – The National Commission criticised the conduct of DDA by stating that Governments and public authorities should not adopt the practice of relying upon technical pleas for the purpose of defeating legitimate claims of citizens and do what is fair and just to the citizens. It was well within the capacity of the DDA to remedy this error and take corrective action. On the contrary, it kept the condoning its own mistake by shifting the blame on the respondent.

Punitive damages for pursuing a frivolous case – While upholding the order of the State Commission, The national commission imposed costs of ₹2 lacs as well as punitive damages of ₹ 5 lac rupees on the DDA and asked them to recover the amount from erring officials who pursued the case for eighteen years. This long delay led to harassment of the respondent and filing of meritless appeals in various courts. This has not just added to litigation costs but also wasted time of several courts as well as the public ex-chequers money.

If you like to file a consumer complaint then click on the link below to get in touch with our team.

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The Top 10 Consumer Court Cases and Trails In India

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People buy goods and services an inevitable process of their daily lives. We all need food clothing and shelter, which forms the basic necessities of our lives. And with the growing dependency on technology, it has also formed in some shape or form, a basic necessity. The world revolves around technology and the internet. While purchasing goods or services, you can come upon various problems from the one who delivers your goods or the service provider or an online vendor or anyone else.

Here are the top 10 Consumer Cases In India that saw justice prevail in the side of the consumer. For more information, we present you this unique blog.

1. Corporate Bodies can be sued under the Consumer Protection Act (CPA)

consumer complaint

Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation (KPTC) v Ashok Iron Works Private Limited

How the factual matter of the case arose

The case dates back to the last century, when in 1991, Ashok Iron Works, a private company that manufactures iron applied for obtaining electricity from the state’s power generation company – the Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation (hereinafter KTPC) for commencing its iron production. However, despite paying charges and obtaining confirmation for the supply of 1500 KVA energy in February 1991, the actual supply did not begin until ten months later, in November 1991.  This delay led to incurring of losses by the private company. This prompted a complaint to the Belgaum Consumer Dispute Forum and later Karnataka High Court, under the Consumer Protection Act 1986 for the delay in supply of electricity.

Legal Arguments by KPTC

  • Commercial supply not covered under the act – The major argument relied on by the power generation company KTPC was that the complaint was not maintainable since the Consumer Protection Act 1986 excludes commercial supply of goods. The applicant company was engaged in manufacturing of iron, and hence, intended to use the electricity for commercial consumption, which is excluded under the act.
  • A private company is not a consumer – The other argument by KTPC was that the complaint is not maintainable because the complainant is not a `person’ under Section 2(1)(m) of the Act, 1986. This section defines who can be included as a consumer, and because it didn’t contain “a company incorporated under Companies Act” – the applicant company is not a consumer.

Supreme Court Ruling in the case

  • “Includes – is an inclusive definition” – Supreme Court relied on the ruling in Dilworth v. Commissioner of Stamps, where Lord Watson said that the word “include” is very generally used in interpretation clauses in order to enlarge the meaning of words or phrases occurring in the body of the statute; It may be equivalent to “mean and include”. The court also relied on other acts such as the General Clauses Act that includes a private company within the purview of the definition of a “person”. Hence, Ashok Iron Works Private Company was held to be a person.
  • Supply doesn’t mean sale – The Supreme Court relied on another case – Southern Petrochemical Industries, where it was held that supply is not equivalent to a sale. Therefore, the supply of electricity by the KPTC to a consumer would be covered under Section 2(1)(o) being `service’ and if the supply of electrical energy to a consumer is not provided in time as is agreed upon, then under Section (2)(1)(g), there may be a case for deficiency in service. Thus, the clause stating “supply” of goods for commercial purpose would not apply.

Thus, the court allowed the complaint on the two grounds that the applicant – Ashok Iron Works Private Limited, can sue as a person, and that supply of electricity, if found deficient can be a fit ground for claiming compensation. The Supreme Court sent the case back to District Forum for retrial on these grounds.

2. Medical services fall within the scope of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA)

consumer complaints india

Indian Medical Association v V.P. Shantha and others

The factual background of the case

The cases arise as a writ petition was filed by the Indian Medical Association seeking the Supreme Court to declare that the Consumer Protection Act (hereinafter “Act”) doesn’t apply to the medical profession.

Questions involved in the case –

  1. Whether a medical practitioner can be regarded as rendering ‘service’ under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986?
  2. If a medical service is rendered for free, will it be covered under the Act?

Arguments by Indian Medical Association –

Reliance on cases which state that such medical service by a government healthcare system is not a service” – It has been held that the payment of direct or indirect taxes by the public does not constitute “constitute “consideration” paid for hiring the services rendered in the Government hospitals. It has also been held that contribution made by a Government employee in the Central Government Health Scheme or such other similar Scheme does not make him a “consumer” within the meaning of the Act.

Medical professionals are governed by a separate Code of Medical Ethics –

medical practitioners are governed by the provisions of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 and the Code of Medical Ethics made by the Medical Council of India. In the matter of professional liability, professions differ from other occupations for the reason that professions operate in spheres where success cannot be achieved in every case and very often success or failure depends upon factors beyond the professional man’s control. Thus, since medical negligence can be dealt with by medical experts in their own jurisdiction, the Consumer Protection Act shouldn’t apply.

There is no expert in medical science in the Consumer Courts –

The Consumer Protection mechanism provides that there must be experts in accountancy, law, economics, industry etc, but doesn’t mention “medical science”, therefore, the act intended to exclude medical profession from its ambit.

Reasoning of the final verdict – Medical professionals are covered under the Consumer Protection Act

  • The medical practitioner and a patient carries within it a certain degree of mutual confidence and trust and, therefore, the services rendered by the medical practitioner can be regarded as services of personal nature, but it is not a contract (such as that between a buyer and seller) and hence, the exclusionary word “contract of personal service” would not apply. Thus, the receiver of the medical help is a consumer.
  • The Court held that District, State and National Consumer Fora can summon experts in the field of medicine, examine evidence and generally act to protect the interest of consumers. Thus, there is no legal bar or deficiency in examining medical profession cases by consumer courts.
  • Doctors and hospitals who render service without any charge whatsoever to every person availing the service would not fall within the ambit of “service”.
  • In a government hospital, where services are provided free of charge – the Consumer Protection act would not apply. If however, there are paying customers and well as service being provided for free to the poor, it shall be covered as a service under the act.
  • If the insurance policy company pays for the treatment, it is on behalf of the customer, and hence, it will be covered under the Act.

3. Medical services should be rendered in accordance with the law

Arvind Shah (Dr.) vs Kamlaben Kushwaha

(Dr.) Arvind Shah vs Kamlaben Kushwaha

The factual background of the case

The case arises as a result of the death of complainant Kamlaben Kushwaha’s 20-year-old son due to medical negligence by the petitioner doctor. The mother alleged that the medicines prescribed had no relation to the ailment – malaria, whereas the actual cause of death was said to be pulmonary oedema. The doctor alleged that he did not diagnose the deceased for malaria, as pathological tests are necessary to establish that conclusively, and no such report was made available to him.  While the State Commission found the doctor guilty of medical negligence and awarded a compensation of 5 lac rupees with interest at 9%, the case was appealed by the doctor in the National Commission.

Basic question that the National Commission sought to answer –

– If and in what circumstance can a doctor be held guilty of medical negligence

– Appropriate compensation for a case of medical negligence

Reasoning and Decision of the National Commission  – Failure to write a prescription gives rise to guilt under medical negligence

  • The National Commission places reliance on the codes, ethics and practices of the medical professionals regulatory bodies and notes that every doctor while treating a patient, even outpatients, is under a responsibility to record basic health parameters such as blood pressure, temperature, pulse rate etc. This is provided under guidelines of the Medical Council of India as well.
  • This record must also include brief summary of the symptoms, past illnesses. This is a primary duty of disclosure owed by the physician to the patient. Thus, failure to record such details constitutes medical negligence.
  • The national commission also highlighted that the doctor is guilty for deficiency in service, due to his failure to record the patient’s conditions and issue a medical prescription.
  • The national commission also notes the denial of the doctor of having written the prescription served as evidence in the first place, but later accepts treating the patient. This conduct, in the language of the commission, does not reflect professional conduct worthy of a medical practitioner.
  • Considering the socio-economic conditions in India, it is necessary to nurture doctor-patient relationships based on trust. Having a ready prescription also helps the patient consult another doctor, in case the initially prescribed line of curative medicine does not work. Similarly, it helps the medical practitioner establish that due care was taken according to prescribed standards in the field of medicine.
  • The Commission noted that while the doctor is indisputably held guilty of medical negligence by not issuing a proper prescription, there is no material available on record to conclusively establish the negligence of the doctor with the cause of death. The medicines prescribed were not related to the established cause of death – pulmonary oedema. As a result, the amount of damages ordered by the State Commission were reduced by the National Commission to Rs. 2.5 lacs.

4. Medical services should be rendered in accordance with the law

4-Medical Service with law

Poonam Verma v. Ashwin Patel

The factual background of the case

In this case, the respondent doctor, Ashwin Patel, was trained in homoeopathy for four years and started his private practice. The appellant Poonam Verma, approached the Supreme court for compensation for her deceased husband, who was administered allopathic drugs for viral fever, and later typhoid fever by the homoeopathy doctor. Her husband passed away within eight days of the treatment.

Questions before the court

  • Whether the appellant’s husband is a consumer, who can avail damages for negligence in service?
  • Whether the conduct of the respondent doctor is negligent, and there is a breach of duty of care?
  • Determining the amount of damages to the deceased’s wife

The reasoning of the court – Prescription of Allopathic drugs by a homoeopathy doctor amounts to negligence

Deceased was a consumer of medical services – The Court relied on the reasoning in the classic case Indian Medical Association v. BP Shantha, and held that the Consumer Protection Act is applicable to medical professionals, including hospitals and private practitioners. Thus, the deceased was a “consumer” of the medical services.

  • Determinants of negligent conduct by a doctor – The Court relied on a case to hold that a doctor, when consulted by a patient, owes him certain duties, namely, (a) a duty of care in deciding whether to undertake the case; (b) a duty of care in deciding what treatment to give; and (c) a duty of care in the administration of that treatment. A breach of any of these duties gives a cause of action for negligence to the patient.
  • The National Consumer Forum held that the doctor was negligent in administering strong antibiotics to Pramod Verma initially for the treatment of Viral Fever and subsequently for Typhoid Fever without confirming the diagnosis by Blood Test or Urine Examination.
  • Registration to practice bars Homeopathy practitioners from Allopathy – The Court placed reliance on provisions of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 and Maharashtra Medical Council Act, which state that a person cannot practice medicine in any state unless he possesses requisite qualification and is enrolled as a Medical Practitioner. The definition of medical practitioner does not include Ayurveda, Unani, Homeopathy, or Biochemic System of medicines.
  • Further, the certificate of registration issued to such homeopathy practitioners states that it entitles them to practice in “Homeopathy Only”. Thus, in accordance with established legal cases, rules of medical negligence, evidence in the form of prescriptions, the court reiterated the principle – Sic Utere tuo ut alienum non loedas– a person is held liable at law for the consequences of his negligence and held the doctor guilty of active negligence.
  • Compensation and Costs – The Court decided a compensation of ₹ 3 lacs while considering the last drawn salary of the deceased and the number of dependents. Legal costs in the case were also reimbursed, and the Court directed the Medical Council of India to initiate appropriate proceedings against the action of the homeopathy doctor.

5. Educational institutions must refund any extra fee paid

Sehgal School of Competition v Dalbir Singh

The factual background of the case 

In this landmark judgement concerning educational institutions that dates back to the year 2005, a student was asked to deposit lump sum fees of ₹18,734 as fees for coaching for medical entrance examinations for the next two years. This was deposited by the student in two complete instalments within the first six months of classes. However, the student realised later that the quality of the coaching institute was substandard, and therefore sought a refund for the remaining period, which was refused by the coaching institute. 

Questions before the court

  • Can a student seek a refund of fees paid to a coaching class for the remaining period of classes that are yet to be held? 
  • In case of a refusal to refund fee, can a claim for mental agony for pressing legal charges to be sought? 

The reasoning of the Commission – Upholding student’s right to be refunded for remaining classes

  • Clauses prohibiting refund of fees are unfair – The Commission notes that educational institutes or coaching centre that charge a lump sum fees for the whole duration or should refund the fees if service is deficient in the quality of coaching etc. Any clause saying that fees once paid shall not be refunded is unconscionable and unfair and therefore not enforceable. This view was maintained by District and State Forums as well as in appeal by the National Commission. 
  • Quashing respondent’s argument on the reservation of seat – The respondent coaching centre argued before the commission that the student had withdrawn voluntarily and, therefore, there exists no deficiency of service. They submitted records that showed good results of the institute and alleged that it was wrong to observe that their coaching was not up to the mark. To justify taking the entire fees of two years lump sump, it was stated that the conditions imposed by the coaching required non-transferability of the seat, and therefore no refund of the fee was possible under any circumstance. The court dismissed this argument and further quoted UGC guidelines that mention that even if a student has not attended even a single class, an amount of ₹1000 may be deducted and proportionate charges for hostel fees, etc, and the balance amount has to be refunded in its entirety. On blocking of the seat, the Commission advised that a reserve list of candidates may be maintained, and waitlisted candidates may be given the opportunity to apply for the seat. 
  • Additional compensation – In the order by State Consumer Forum, it was mentioned that not just the balance amount of fee, but also a higher compensation for legal costs as well as the pain that the student had to undertake, could be availed in such cases. 

6. Sympathy should not influence compensation.

Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences vs. Prasanth S Dhankara and Others Factual background of the case - This consumer case arises out of a complaint of medical negligence where a 20 year old engineering student was admitted to the Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS), after he complained of chest pain. Several tests and X rays were done that revealed a tumour, however it could not be ascertained whether the tumour was malignant or not, therefore, the patient was advised to undergo surgical removal of the same. After the surgery, the patient developed acute paraplegia with a complete loss of control over the lower limbs, and some other related complications that led to urinary tract infections, bed sores etc. The family of the patient held NIMS vicariously liable and the State of Andhra Pradesh statutorily liable (being a government hospital) for the negligence of the doctors concerned. Allegations was primarily levelled against a doctor, Dr. P.V. Satyanarayana for negligence before, during and after the operation. Arguments by the patient’s family - The father of the patient, since he was an engineering student, had pleaded with doctors to let him finish his education first before undergoing the operation as there was no emergency or immediate danger to life - There were no pre-operative tests conducted - Operating on the tumour that had neurological implications, there was no neurosurgeon present - Consent was taken only for the tumour excision, however the doctors removed not just the tumour but also surrounding ribs, tumour mass and destroyed blood vessels that led to the condition of paraplegia (paralysis). Supreme Court verdict Consent by patient - The Court trashed the argument by the hospital that since the patient was not conscious - implied consent to operate is assumed to avoid a second additional operation. Negligence by a medical professional - The Court looked at various cases of medical negligence and held that as long as a doctor follows a practice acceptable to the medical profession, he cannot be held liable for negligence merely because a better alternative course or method of treatment was also available. This also includes a scenario where just because a more skilled doctor would not have chosen to follow a practice or procedure which the accused followed. The conduct needs to be judged based on the day of the operation, and not on trial. However, based on the evidence in this case, gross negligence is made out in part of the doctors. Compensation - “Balance between multiple parties while awarding compensation” • While holding the doctors of NIMS liable, the court considers the following - compensation for i) present burden of medical expenses, ii) prospective burden of expenses, iii) loss of future earnings, iv) pain, suffering, loss of amenities and enjoyment of life and shortening of life expectancy and v) damages / compensation for father, mother, brother and maternal uncle of the patient who will now be wheelchair bound for the rest of his life. • Under multiple heads cumulatively, the court awarded damages worth ₹ 1 crore. However, the court also rejected some amounts claimed by the patient as unjust - such as ₹2 crores in a deposit form, to be withdrawn if a future medical development allows his condition to improve. • The Supreme Court mentions that award of compensation is a balance between many parties and interests, and sympathy for the patient must not come in way of awarding a fair and adequate compensation.

Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences v Prasanth S. Dhananka & Ors

Factual Background of the case

This consumer case arises out of a complaint of medical negligence where a 20-year-old engineering student was admitted to the Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS) after he complained of chest pain. Several tests and X rays were done that revealed a tumor, however, it could not be ascertained whether the tumor was malignant or not, therefore, the patient was advised to undergo surgical removal of the same. After the surgery, the patient developed acute paraplegia with a complete loss of control over the lower limbs and some other related complications that led to urinary tract infections, bedsores, etc. The family of the patient held NIMS vicariously liable and the State of Andhra Pradesh statutorily liable (being a government hospital) for the negligence of the doctors concerned. Allegations were primarily leveled against a doctor, Dr. P.V. Satyanarayana for negligence before, during, and after the operation.

Arguments by the patient’s family

  • The father of the patient, since he was an engineering student, had pleaded with doctors to let him finish his education first before undergoing the operation as there was no emergency or immediate danger to life
  • There were no pre-operative tests conducted
  • Operating on the tumor that had neurological implications, there was no neurosurgeon present
  • Consent was taken only for the tumor excision, however, the doctors removed not just the tumor but also surrounding ribs, tumor mass, and destroyed blood vessels that led to the condition of paraplegia (paralysis).

Supreme Court verdict

Consent by the patient – The Court trashed the argument by the hospital that since the patient was not conscious – implied consent to operate is assumed to avoid a second additional operation.

Negligence by a medical professional – The Court looked at various cases of medical negligence and held that as long as a doctor follows a practice acceptable to the medical profession, he cannot be held liable for negligence merely because a better alternative course or method of treatment was also available. This also includes a scenario where just because a more skilled doctor would not have chosen to follow a practice or procedure which the accused followed. The conduct needs to be judged based on the day of the operation, and not on trial. However, based on the evidence, in this case, gross negligence is made out in part of the doctors.

Compensation – “Balance between multiple parties while awarding compensation”

  • While holding the doctors of NIMS liable, the court considers the following – compensation for i) present burden of medical expenses, ii) prospective burden of expenses, iii) loss of future earnings, iv) pain, suffering, loss of amenities and enjoyment of life and shortening of life expectancy and v) damages/compensation for father, mother, brother and maternal uncle of the patient who will now be wheelchair-bound for the rest of his life.
  • Under multiple heads cumulatively, the court awarded damages worth ₹ 1 crore. However, the court also rejected some amounts claimed by the patient as unjust – such as ₹2 crores in a deposit form, to be withdrawn if a future medical development allows his condition to improve.
  • The Supreme Court mentions that the award of compensation is a balance between many parties and interests, and sympathy for the patient must not come in way of awarding a fair and adequate compensation.

7. Discovery rule for medical negligence.

V.N.Shrikhande v. Anita Sena Fernandes

Factual Background of the case

This consumer case is decided by the Supreme Court of India on appeal from the orders of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission. The case involves the petitioner – Anita Sena, who was a nurse by profession. She underwent a stone removal surgery from her gall bladder but claimed that she continued to experience pain. For nine years, she had a gauge left in her abdomen by the surgeon who operated on her. This required a second surgery, and sufferance for many years – therefore, charges for negligence and compensation of Rs.50 lakhs was demanded by the petitioner.

The Essential question before the court:

Whether a petitioner can still approach the court for a deficiency in service after nine years and would it be barred by limitation?

Principles applied by the court:

When can a court accept the consumer case – The court lists that the matter must satisfy certain essentials. The petitioner should fall within the definition of ‘consumer’ as defined in the act and there must be a ‘defect’ or ‘deficiency in service’, and the complaint should have been filed within the prescribed period of limitation, only then it can direct that the complaint may be proceeded with.

The Discovery Rule of limitation – Limitation is a legal concept that puts a restriction on one’s ability to approach the court after a period of delay. This has been introduced to keep a check on frivolous cases, and act as a disincentive for people have not been mindful of enforcing their rights. It also insulates defendants from defending very old claims. In medical cases, the court states the regular limitation period under the act must not apply. It refers to an American case, where a surgical sponge left behind in a patient’s body was discovered after ten long and painful years. It held that where a foreign object has negligently been left in the patient’s body, the limitation period will not begin to run until the patient could have reasonably discovered the malpractice.

Application of these to the present case – Rejecting the case on limitation and evidentiary grounds

The Court while highlighting the Discovery Rule categorically says that it is not applicable in the present case due to the below-mentioned reasons.

  • Since the petitioner was a nurse working in a hospital, it was reasonably expected of her to have contacted the appellant and apprised him about her pain and agony and sought his advice. Neither did the petitioner contact her operating surgeon, nor any other doctor of the hospital she was employed in, in these nine years.
  • During the discovery of gauze in her abdomen, the operating surgeon would have taken appropriate action for extracting the same without requiring the respondent to pay for it.
  • Any person of ordinary prudence, who may have suffered pain and discomfort after surgery would have consulted the concerned surgeon or any other competent doctor and sought his advice but the petitioner-nurse did nothing except taking some pain killers. Thus, her long silence militates against the claim for compensation and hence, the complaint was dismissed.

8.  Both parents and minor can claim for compensation under the Consumer Protection Act

Spring meadows hospital v. Harjot Ahluwalia

The Factual Background of the case

This landmark case arises out of a complaint against Spring Meadows Hospital, where the minor child – Harjot Ahluwalia was admitted by his parents. The child was diagnosed with typhoid and was injected a solution by a nurse after which his condition deteriorated. He was shifted to an auto respiratory ICU at AIIMS, where it was found that due to the injection administered, his brain got damaged and he would only live in a vegetative state for life. The parents of the child approached the court for a case of medical negligence and demanded compensation, on behalf of the child.

The Essential question before the court

⁃ Can parents of the child, being the consumer, approach the court for availing compensation?

⁃ Can the court award compensation to the parents for mental agony?

Arguments by the nurse and the hospital

⁃ There was no medical negligence as the nurse was professionally qualified

⁃ The solution of the injection administered was already being given in the oral form, hence the nurse did not do any test for injection.

⁃ The nurse did not exercise independent decision, was only acting as per directions of the pediatrician.

⁃ The hospital also argues that compensation cannot be claimed twice, by both the child and his parents.

⁃ The hospital also sought refuge in the fact that after the child was declared vegetative by AIIMS, they volunteered to offer medical services without charge to the parents.

The court while making a case for gross negligence quashed these arguments and held the hospital responsible, for the medical college of the nurse had no affiliation, the injection overdose had led to the child’s brain damage and there was no resident doctor present.

The reasoning of the court

  • Definition of consumer wide enough to cover the beneficiary: When a young child is taken to a hospital by his/her parents and the child is treated by the doctor, the parents would come within the definition of the consumer having hired the services, and the young child would also become a “consumer” under the inclusive definition.
  • Compensation can justifiably be claimed by both parents as well as the child: The court states that the child is justified in seeking compensation for the recurring medical expenses, equipment, etc, for the vegetative state he is rendered in. The parents are also, as beneficiaries entitled to seek compensation for the pain, acute mental agony and lifelong care that they’d be required to give to the child. As a result, the court upheld the compensation of Rs.17.5 lakhs awarded by the National Commission, which was also the highest amount ever awarded until the case was decided in 1997.

9. Imposition of penalty for frivolous consumer claims

Sapient Corporation Employees Provident Fund Trust v HDFC & Ors.

Factual Background of the case

This case arises as a result of a complaint of an alleged wrongful debit from a bank account. The complainant trust – Sapient Corporation Employees Provident Fund Trust maintained an account with the respondent HDFC Bank. The bank received instructions from the Employee Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) that mentioned order of payment of ₹1.47 crores against the trust, and that no other payments from the trust’s account be made until EPFO’s liability is settled by the trust. The trust, however, issued an instruction to the bank not to debit any amount until further communication as they wanted to seek a stay order. However, in payment of the statutory due to EPFO, the bank, after giving due time, debit the account with an amount of ₹1.47 crores. The trust has challenged this as a deficiency in service and demanded the amount debited along with interest, damages, and legal expenses.

Essential Question before the National Commission

  • Whether the bank committed any default by paying an amount payable as a statutory due decided by a judicial order?
  • Can a bank be held guilty for deficiency in service for paying a rightful due?

Court – No deficiency in service for releasing an amount due on court order

No negligence or deficiency in service by HDFC Bank – The Commission dismissed the argument of the complainant that without any authority or mandate, debiting the amount due to EPFO of ₹1.4 crores is a deficiency in service. An action in compliance with the direction of a statutory authority such as EPFO cannot be said to be willful negligence or deficiency in service. The bank also informed the trust, as its customer, and gave them due time. Hence, the action is legal and proper.

Frivolous consumer cases are to be penalized – As per Section 26 of the Consumer Act, any consumer fora under the act has the power to dismiss a complaint made frivolously or one that is vexatious or unnecessary. Further, the court notices that the trust has already won the appeal from EPFO orders at the Appellate stage, whereby they would receive the entire amount with interest. Therefore, the case is without any merit and no remedy is made. For this false litigation, the court imposed a penalty of ₹25,000 on the complainant trust that would be paid to the HDFC Bank.

10. Compensation to the complainants for frivolous appeals.

Delhi Development Authority v D.C. Sharma

Factual Background of the case

In this case, DC Sharma (respondent), a government servant paid an initial amount for allotment of a plot of ₹ 5 lacs in 1997, by the Delhi Development Authority (hereinafter called DDA). He requested extra time for the instalment payment as he wished to avail loan facility from his office. Meanwhile, it was realised that the plot allotted to him through a draw of lots had already been allotted to another person, two years before the draw of lots. Due to this negligence of the DDA, the respondent approached the District forum, that dismissed the case. Subsequently, the state Consumer forum was approached that passed an order in favour of the respondent.

Order of the State Commission

The state commission in its order held the state responsible, for DDA is a government entity. It directed DDA to allot an alternative plot of the same kind or pay the escalated price of ₹30 lacs. The DDA relies on a frivolous argument that the case is liable to be dismissed since the respondent did not pay the instalment and therefore, his application stood rejected. Whereas, in reality, the allotted plot number has already been assigned to someone back in 1995 and the DDA took no steps to correct its own error in the allotment.

Order of the National Commission

Government departments such as DDA harassing genuine buyers in technical pleas – The National Commission criticised the conduct of DDA by stating that Governments and public authorities should not adopt the practice of relying upon technical pleas for the purpose of defeating legitimate claims of citizens and do what is fair and just to the citizens. It was well within the capacity of the DDA to remedy this error and take corrective action. On the contrary, it kept the condoning its own mistake by shifting the blame on the respondent.

Punitive damages for pursuing a frivolous case – While upholding the order of the State Commission, The national commission imposed costs of ₹2 lacs as well as punitive damages of ₹ 5 lac rupees on the DDA and asked them to recover the amount from erring officials who pursued the case for eighteen years. This long delay led to harassment of the respondent and filing of meritless appeals in various courts. This has not just added to litigation costs but also wasted time of several courts as well as the public ex-chequers money.

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Avani Mishra is a graduate in law from the National Law Institute University, Bhopal. She qualified the Company Secretary course with an All India Rank 1 and is a recipient of the President’s Gold Medal for her academic distinctions. She also holds a B.Com degree with a specialization in Corporate Affairs and Administration.