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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

condonation of delay, - The fact that the Lucknow Development Authority was duly represented before the State Commission, as also, when the order dated 11.5.2007 was passed by it, reveal that the appellant was aware of the said order right from the beginning. Yet the appellant waited for over four and a half years, to approach the National Commission. Even before this Court, the appellant has failed to express any valid justification for having approached the National Commission belatedly. We, therefore, find no good ground to set aside the order passed by the National Commission on 30.7.2012. - Despite our aforesaid determination of the present controversy, we consider it just and appropriate to set aside the costs imposed upon the appellant herein, by the National Commission, in view of the conclusion drawn by us, that the choice of the appellant in approaching the National Commission against the order passed by the State Commission (dated 11.5.2007) could not be described as frivolous. As already noticed herein above, the said order could have only been assailed only before the National Commission, as the State Commission had no jurisdiction to recall or modify its own order (dated 11.5.2007). Accordingly, the costs imposed on the appellant in the impugned order is hereby set aside. Besides the aforesaid, the order of the National Commission calls for no interference. 14. The instant appeal is accordingly disposed of in the aforesaid terms.


                                                              NON-REPORTABLE

                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

              CIVIL APPEAL NO.         936              OF 2013
                  (Arising Out of SLP (C) No.19556 of 2012)


Lucknow Development Authority                            … Appellant

                                   Versus

Shyam Kapoor                                             … Respondents



                                  O R D E R


Jagdish Singh Khehar, J.

1.    Leave granted.
2.    Shyam Kapoor, the respondent herein, preferred a complaint before  the
District Consumer Forum  IInd,  Lucknow  (hereinafter  referred  to  as  the
‘District Forum’), asserting that he had deposited a sum of Rs.5,000/-  with
the  Lucknow  Development  Authority,  i.e.,  the   appellant   herein,   on
1.12.1982.  
The aforesaid deposit had been made for  allotment  of  a  6,000
sq. ft. plot in the ‘A’ category under the Gomti  Nagar  Residential  Scheme
(hereinafter referred to  as  ‘the  Scheme’).
It  was  alleged,  that  the
Lucknow  Development  Authority  had  neither  allotted  any  plot  to   the
respondent-complainant, nor returned  the  deposit  tendered  by  him.   
The
appellant herein, however, issued a press notice in 1991  requiring  persons
similarly situated as the respondent-complainant, to deposit  an  additional
amount by January 1992, so as to be eligible  for  consideration,  for  such
allotment.
On account of the fact, that the  deposit  of  the  differential
amount was imperative for future consideration,  the  respondent-complainant
deposited a further amount of Rs.15,000/- on 30.1.1992.
Still, no plot  was
allotted  to  the  respondent-complainant.   On  30.10.1996,  Shyam  Kapoor,
addressed a communication to the Lucknow  Development  Authority,  requiring
it to furnish him with details in the matter of allotment of  plots.  
Since
the  Lucknow  Development  Authority  did  not  respond  to  the   aforesaid
communication,  Shyam   Kapoor   preferred   the   complaint   referred   to
hereinabove.
3.    In its defence, the appellant  herein,  while  admitting  the  factual
position expressed by Shyam Kapoor in his  complaint,  raised  a  number  of
legal/technical objections.
The stand of the appellant so as to defeat  the
claim of the respondent-complainant included a plea, that the complaint  was
barred by time.
 It was also  contended  that  the  complainant  was  not  a
consumer, and as such,  the  District  Forum  had  no  jurisdiction  in  the
matter.
Besides the aforesaid, it was asserted by the appellant before  the
District  Forum,   that   the   respondent-complainant   had   changed   his
registration from the Scheme under which he had originally applied,  and  as
such, his claim could not  be  considered  on  the  basis  of  the  original
deposit made by him.
The entitlement  of  the  respondent  complainant  for
allotment of a plot under the Scheme was also sought to be disputed  on  the
ground that he was  unsuccessful  in  obtaining  a  loan  from  a  financial
institution.
4.    Despite the defences  raised  by  the  Lucknow  Development  Authority
before the District Forum, the prayers made by the complainant were  allowed
by an order dated 30.12.2005.  The operative part of  the  order  passed  by
the District Forum is being extracted hereunder :

           “Complaint is allowed.  The opposite party is directed to  allot
           any developed plot admeasuring 6000 sq. ft. in any scheme  Gomti
           Nagar at the rate prevailing in January 1992 within  two  months
           from the date of order and after adjusting the deposited  amount
           in the total  amount  of  the  plot  and  after  depositing  the
           remaining amount and complying another formalities hand over the
           possession after registration.  And opposite party pay Rs.1,000/-
            to the complainant towards cost of  case.   Other  reliefs  are
           rejected.”


5.    Aggrieved with the order dated  30.12.2005  (passed  by  the  District
Forum), the  appellant  herein  preferred  an  appeal  before  the  Consumer
Disputes Redressal Commission, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow (hereinafter  referred
to as the ‘State Commission’).  The State Commission having entertained  the
appeal preferred by the appellant herein, issued notice  to  the  respondent
herein on 1.11.2006.  While issuing notice, the State Commission stayed  the
order of the District Forum dated 30.12.2005.  Even though notice  had  been
issued, in the appeal preferred by the Lucknow  Development  Authority,  the
appellant failed to deposit process fee.  Therefore,  when  the  matter  was
taken  up  for  hearing  on  11.5.2007,  the  State  Commission  passed  the
following order:
           “As requested learned counsel for the appellants a week time  is
           allowed to take steps failing  which  the  interim  order  shall
           stand vacated and the appeal dismissed.”


6.    A perusal of the aforesaid order would reveal that one week’s  further
time was granted to the appellant to deposit process  fee.   While  granting
the aforesaid liberty, the State Commission clearly expressed in  its  order
dated 11.5.2007, that in case necessary steps were not taken (in  depositing
the process fee) within the time stipulated, the  interim  order  passed  by
the State Commission on  1.11.2006  would  stand  vacated,  and  the  appeal
preferred by the Lucknow Development Authority would also  stand  dismissed.
It is not a matter of dispute, that the process fee  was  not  deposited  on
behalf of the Lucknow Development Authority (in the appeal preferred  by  it
before the State Commission) even in the extended time allowed by the  State
Commission vide its order dated 11.5.2007.   In  view  of  the  order  dated
11.5.2007 extracted hereinabove, the  natural  consequence  for  not  having
taken the steps required of the  appellant,  the  interim  order  passed  on
1.11.2006  stood  vacated,  and  the  appeal  preferred   by   the   Lucknow
Development Authority stood dismissed.
7.    Dissatisfied with the effect of the  order  of  the  State  Commission
dated 11.5.2007, which had resulted in dismissal of the appeal preferred  by
the  Lucknow  Development  Authority  before  the  State   Commission,   the
appellant chose to file a Revision Petition  before  the  National  Consumer
Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi (hereinafter  referred  to  as  the
‘National Commission’).  According to the pleadings filed by the  appellant,
its choice for not filing an application for recall of  the  impugned  order
dated 11.5.2007 before the State Commission was, that the  State  Commission
did not have the jurisdiction to set  aside  or  recall,  an  order  of  the
nature passed on 11.5.2007.
8.    It would also be relevant  to  mention,  that  the  Revision  Petition
referred to hereinabove, was filed  by  the  Lucknow  Development  Authority
before the National Commission on 5.12.2011, i.e.,  more  than  four  and  a
half years after the impugned order dated 11.5.2007 was passed by the  State
Commission.  When the Revision  Petition  was  listed  before  the  National
Commission for the first time on 02.02.2012, the  counsel  representing  the
Lucknow Development Authority sought an adjournment, to place on  record  of
the Revision Petition, all  the  orders  passed  by  the  State  Commission,
during the period the appeal preferred by the Lucknow Development  Authority
had  remained  pending  with  it.   The  National  Commission,  accordingly,
adjourned the Revision Petition for  hearing  to  5.3.2012.   The  same  was
again adjourned on 5.3.2012, so as to enable the  learned  counsel  for  the
Lucknow  Development  Authority  to  obtain  instructions.    Finally,   the
Revision Petition preferred by the Lucknow Development Authority  was  heard
and disposed of by  an  order  dated  30.3.2012.   The  National  Commission
dismissed  the  Revision  Petition  as  frivolous,  and  imposed   cost   of
Rs.10,000/- on the Lucknow Development  Authority.   The  Revision  Petition
was primarily dismissed, on account of its having been filed well after  the
prescribed period of limitation.  The observation recorded by  the  National
Commission for not entertaining the Revision Petition belatedly,  are  being
extracted hereunder :
           “No reason has been set out to explain why the  steps  were  not
           taken even  within  the  extended  period.   If  the  petitioner
           thought that the impugned order passed was  illegal  or  without
           jurisdiction, it ought to have challenged the  same  immediately
           or within the prescribed period rather than waiting to challenge
           the  same  until  notice  under  Section  27  of  the   Consumer
           Protection Act,  was  issued  to  the  petitioner  in  execution
           proceedings.  To say the least, the conduct of the petitioner in
           not taking the requisite steps despite a clear  cut  stipulation
           that the appeal shall stand dismissed if the steps are not taken
           and thereafter not approaching the State Commission  either  for
           revival of the appeal or this Commission to set aside  the  said
           order, speaks  volumes  about  the  defaulting  conduct  of  the
           petitioner.  Petitioner being a statutory authority  is  ‘State’
           within the meaning of Article 12 of  the  Constitution  and  was
           expected to act promptly, prudently and  diligently  if  it  was
           really serious in challenging the said  order.   The  order  was
           passed by the  State  Commission  in  presence  of  the  learned
           counsel for the petitioner and, therefore, the petitioner cannot
           be allowed to take a refuge that the certified copy was supplied
           in the year 2011, after four years and the present petition  has
           been filed thereafter.  Having considered  the  matter,  we  see
           absolutely no good ground to condone such huge delay  in  filing
           the present revision petition.”


9.     Aggrieved  with  the  order  passed  on  30.3.2012  by  the  National
Commission, dismissing the Revision Petition  preferred  by  the  appellant,
the appellant has now  approached  this  Court  by  preferring  the  instant
appeal.
10.   The first question which concerns us is the conclusion  drawn  by  the
National Commission, that the Revision Petition filed by the  appellant  was
frivolous.  In order  to  controvert  the  aforesaid  determination  of  the
National Commission, learned counsel  for  the  appellant  has  invited  our
attention to the decision rendered by this Court in Rajeev  Hitendra  Pathak
& Ors. v. Achyut Kashinath Karekar & Anr., (2011) 9 SCC  541,  wherein  this
Court clearly concluded, that neither  the  District  Forum  nor  the  State
Commission had power to  review  its  “ex  parte”  orders.   Orders  of  the
aforesaid  nature  were,  “per  se”  assailable  only  before  the  National
Commission.
11.   We have no difficulty in accepting the contention advanced  on  behalf
of the appellant before us.  As we find  no  fault  in  the  action  of  the
appellant in having not chosen to move an  application  for  recall  of  the
order dated 11.5.2007 before the State Commission itself.  The  observations
made by the “National Commission” to the effect, that the  appellant  having
not approached the  “State  Commission”  for  the  revival  of  the  appeal,
expressed volumes about  the  defaulting  conduct  of  the  appellant,  were
clearly  unjustified.   We  are   also   satisfied   that   the   appellants
determination, to assail the order of the State Commission  dated  11.5.2007
by preferring a  revision  petition  before  the  National  Commission,  was
legally justified.  In so far as, our instant conclusion is  concerned,  the
same clearly emerges from the following observations recorded by this  Court
in Rajeev Hitendra Pathak’s case (supra) wherein this Court held as under :
           “34. On careful analysis of the provisions of  the  Act,  it  is
           abundantly clear that the Tribunals are creatures of the Statute
           and derive their  power  from  the  express  provisions  of  the
           Statute. The District Forums and the State Commissions have  not
           been given any power to set aside ex prate orders and  power  of
           review and the powers which have not been expressly given by the
           Statute cannot be exercised.

           35. The legislature chose to give the National Commission  power
           to  review  its  ex  prate  orders.  Before  amendment,  against
           dismissal of any case by the Commission,  the  consumer  had  to
           rush to this Court. The amendment in Section 22 and introduction
           of Section 22A were done for the convenience of  the  consumers.
           We have carefully  ascertained  the  legislative  intention  and
           interpreted the law accordingly.”


In view of the above, the  choice  of  the  appellant,  in  approaching  the
“National Commission” rather than the  “state  Commission”  could  not  have
been  described  as  frivolous.   We  are,  therefore,  satisfied  that  the
revision petition filed by the  Lucknow  Development  Authority  before  the
National Commission was procedurally in order.  And as such, the  choice  of
the appellant to file a revision petition to assail the order of the  “state
Commission” dated 11.5.2007, could not be faulted.
12.   The real  reason  for  the  National  Commission  for  dismissing  the
revision petition filed by the appellant was, that it was  filed  belatedly,
well after the expiry of the period of limitation.   The  observations  made
by the National Commission  to  the  aforesaid  effect,  have  already  been
extracted  herein above.   We   find   nothing   wrong   in   the   aforesaid
determination of  the  National  Commission.   It  was  imperative  for  the
Lucknow Development Authority  to  seek   condonation  of  delay,  for  some
justifiable reason as the National Commission  was  being  approached  after
four and a half years.  In the absence of valid justification for  condoning
delay, the National Commission had no other option, but to  pass  the  order
dated 30.3.2012.  The fact that the Lucknow Development Authority  was  duly
represented before the State Commission,  as  also,  when  the  order  dated
11.5.2007 was passed by it, reveal that the appellant was aware of the  said
order right from the beginning.  Yet the appellant waited for over four  and
a half years, to approach the National Commission.  Even before this  Court,
the appellant has failed to  express  any  valid  justification  for  having
approached the National Commission belatedly.  We, therefore, find  no  good
ground to  set  aside  the  order  passed  by  the  National  Commission  on
30.7.2012.
13.   Despite our aforesaid determination of  the  present  controversy,  we
consider it just and appropriate to set aside the  costs  imposed  upon  the
appellant herein, by the National Commission,  in  view  of  the  conclusion
drawn by us, that the choice of the appellant in  approaching  the  National
Commission  against  the  order  passed  by  the  State  Commission   (dated
11.5.2007)  could  not  be  described  as  frivolous.  
As  already   noticed
herein above, the said order could have only been assailed  only  before  the
National Commission, as the State Commission had no jurisdiction  to  recall
or modify its own order (dated 11.5.2007).  
Accordingly, the  costs  imposed
on the appellant in the impugned order is hereby  set  aside.   Besides  the
aforesaid, the order of the National Commission calls for no interference.
14.   The instant appeal is accordingly disposed of in the aforesaid terms.


                                                           …..…………………………….J.
                                                          (Dr. B.S. Chauhan)



                                                           …..…………………………….J.
                                                      (Jagdish Singh Khehar)

New Delhi;
February 5, 2013

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