The Court held that the District Forum has no power to extend the time for filing the response to the complaint beyond the period of 15 days in addition to 30 days as is envisaged under Section 13 of the Consumer Protection Act.
It further held that the commencing point of limitation of 30 days under Section 13 of the Consumer Protection Act would be from the date of receipt of the notice accompanied with the complaint by the opposite party, and not the mere receipt of the notice of the complaint.
This judgment came in the case of New India Assurance v. Hilli Multipurpose Cold Storage Pvt. Ltd.
In this case, question that arose was, whether the matter was governed by law laid down in Dr JJ Merchant & Ors vs Shrinath Chaturvedi or Kailash vs Nankhu & Ors.
While the JJ Merchant case stated that in no case could a period beyond 45 days be granted. The Kailash case, pertaining to election law and order VIII Rule 1 of Code of Civil Procedure, stated that such provisions are not mandatory, but directory in nature, and therefore, in the interest of justice, further time for filing reply could be granted on the basis of the circumstances, the report says.
As per Section 13(2)(a), when the district forum receives a complaint under Section 12 of the CPA, a copy of the complaint is to be served upon the opposite party, and the opposite party has to provide his version of the case within a period of 30 days from the date of receipt of the copy of the complaint.
Section 13(2)(a) governs the period of extension of 15 days that the district forum may grant to the opposite party. The same is the time period for filing version in state commission and national commission as well.
The Court held that Consumer Protection Act did not empower the Consumer Forum to extend the time beyond the period of 45 days. The time period prescribed under Section 13 of the Consumer Protection Act is mandatory, and not directory, held the judgment authored by Justice Vineet Saran for the bench.