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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India before the High Court, inter alia, praying that Regulation 15 of the Regulations be struck down on the ground that the said Regulation being ultra vires of the said Act, and further the review application filed by the appellant should be re-heard by the National Commission granting an opportunity to present the case by making oral arguments. = Surendra Mohan Arora … Appellant :Versus: HDFC Bank Ltd. and Others ...Respondents = 2014 (April. Part)http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=41471

writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India  before the High Court, inter alia, praying that Regulation 15  of  the  Regulations be struck down on the ground that the said Regulation being ultra  vires  of the said Act, and further the review  application  filed  by  the  appellant should be re-heard by the National Commission  granting  an  opportunity  to
present the case by making oral arguments. =

 The appellant filed a complaint before the District Forum under  the
said Act. The foundation of the filing of such complaint was  an  allegation
made against respondent No. 1 – HDFC Bank  Ltd.   for  indulging  in  unfair
trade practice on the ground of failure to provide professional services  to
the appellant resulting in pre-payment of loan to  respondent  No.1  seeking
to levy a penalty for pre-payment.
By an order dated August 2, 2007, the District Forum held in  favour
of the appellant. Respondent No.1  preferred  an  appeal  against  the  said
order before the State Commission resulting in dismissal by an  order  dated
November 19, 2007.  A  revision  petition  was  filed  before  the  National
Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission  (hereinafter  referred  to  as  “the
National Commission”) which set aside the orders of the District  Forum  and
the State Commission vide an order dated August 14, 2012  on  the  basis  of
the  agreements  inter  se  between  the  parties.  Being   aggrieved,   the
appellant  filed  a  review  application  before  the  National   Commission
resulting in dismissal by an order dated September 24, 2012.
Being aggrieved and dissatisfied with the said  order,  the  appellant
filed a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India  before
the High Court, inter alia, praying that Regulation 15  of  the  Regulations
be struck down on the ground that the said Regulation being ultra  vires  of
the said Act, and further the review  application  filed  by  the  appellant
should be re-heard by the National Commission  granting  an  opportunity  to
present the case by making oral arguments.
High court dismissed the writ petition filed  by  the  appellant,  questioning  the
   vires of Regulation 15  of  the  Consumer  Protection  Regulations,  2005
   (hereinafter referred to as “the Regulations”)  framed under the Consumer
   Protection Act, 1986 (hereinafter referred to as “the said Act”).=


whether the review petitions will  be  decided  after
   granting an opportunity of being heard to the petitioner. 
From the  order
   of the High Court,  we  find  that  no  such  request  was  made  in  the
   application before the National Commission for  such  hearing.  
In  these
   circumstances, the High Court correctly held that the  writ  petition  is
   misconceived and devoid of merit without even laying the basic foundation
   for having sought an oral hearing of the review application.  
We  do  not
   find any reason to interfere with the order passed  by  the  High  Court.
   Accordingly, we uphold and affirm the said order and dismiss this appeal.=


2014 (April. Part)http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=41471                                   GYAN SUDHA MISRA, PINAKI CHANDRA GHOSE  
                                                                Reportable
                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
                       CIVIL APPEAL NO.4891   OF  2014
      (Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Civil) No.14965 of 2013)

Surendra Mohan Arora                                               …
Appellant

                                  :Versus:

HDFC Bank Ltd. and Others
...Respondents



                               J U D G M E N T


Pinaki Chandra Ghose, J.

1.     Leave granted.


2. This appeal is directed  against  the  judgment  dated  January  7,  2013
   passed by the High Court of  Delhi  in  Writ  Petition  No.  64  of  2013
   dismissing the writ petition filed  by  the  appellant,  questioning  the
   vires of Regulation 15  of  the  Consumer  Protection  Regulations,  2005
   (hereinafter referred to as “the Regulations”)  framed under the Consumer
   Protection Act, 1986 (hereinafter referred to as “the said Act”).


3.   The facts of the case briefly are as follows :


(3.1)   The appellant filed a complaint before the District Forum under  the
said Act. The foundation of the filing of such complaint was  an  allegation
made against respondent No. 1 – HDFC Bank  Ltd.   for  indulging  in  unfair
trade practice on the ground of failure to provide professional services  to
the appellant resulting in pre-payment of loan to  respondent  No.1  seeking
to levy a penalty for pre-payment.


(3.2)   By an order dated August 2, 2007, the District Forum held in  favour
of the appellant. Respondent No.1  preferred  an  appeal  against  the  said
order before the State Commission resulting in dismissal by an  order  dated
November 19, 2007.  A  revision  petition  was  filed  before  the  National
Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission  (hereinafter  referred  to  as  “the
National Commission”) which set aside the orders of the District  Forum  and
the State Commission vide an order dated August 14, 2012  on  the  basis  of
the  agreements  inter  se  between  the  parties.  Being   aggrieved,   the
appellant  filed  a  review  application  before  the  National   Commission
resulting in dismissal by an order dated September 24, 2012.


(3.3) Being aggrieved and dissatisfied with the said  order,  the  appellant
filed a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India  before
the High Court, inter alia, praying that Regulation 15  of  the  Regulations
be struck down on the ground that the said Regulation being ultra  vires  of
the said Act, and further the review  application  filed  by  the  appellant
should be re-heard by the National Commission  granting  an  opportunity  to
present the case by making oral arguments.


4.  Mr.  Nikhil  Majithia,  learned  counsel  appearing  on  behalf  of  the
   appellant, drew our attention to the Statement of Objects and Reasons  of
   the said Act which is to provide for better  protection  of  interest  of
   consumers and it is towards that objective that Section 22  of  the  said
   Act was amended by Act No.62 of 2002 with effect  from  March  15,  2003,
   conferring the power of review on the National Commission, which was  not
   available in the original Act. According to him, Regulation 15  is  ultra
   vires Section 22 of the said Act. It  is  also  his  contention  that  by
   introducing Regulation 15,  the  National  Commission  has  exceeded  its
   jurisdiction and the power vested in it under Section  30A  of  the  said
   Act.


5.  Section 22 of the said Act reads as follows :

      “Section 22.  Power  of  and  procedure  applicable  to  the  National
      Commission. — (1) The provisions of sections 12, 13  and  14  and  the
      rules made thereunder for the disposal of complaints by  the  District
      Forum shall, with such modifications as may be considered necessary by
      the Commission, be applicable to  the  disposal  of  disputes  by  the
      National Commission.

      (2)   Without prejudice to the  provisions  contained  in  sub-section
      (1), the National Commission shall have the power to review any  order
      made by it, when there is an error apparent on the face of record.”





It is necessary to quote Regulation 15 for our purpose which is as under:

      “Regulation 15. Review.-(1) It shall set out clearly the  grounds  for
      review.


      (2)   Unless   otherwise   ordered by the National   Commission,    an
      application for review shall be disposed  of  by  circulation  without
      oral arguments, as far as practicable between the same members who had
      delivered the order sought to be reviewed.”



6. It is needless to mention  here  that  the  said  Regulations  were  duly
   published in the Official Gazette dated May 31, 2005 and were so made  in
   pursuance of the power conferred  under  Section  30A  of  the  said  Act
   conferring power on the National Commission to make such regulations with
   the prior approval of the Central Government. According to Mr.  Majithia,
   the Consumer Protection Act has been enacted to protect and  advance  the
   cause of consumers. He further contended that the  Statement  of  Objects
   and Reasons of the Act in Clause 2 states that the Act seeks  to  promote
   and protect the rights of consumers  including  the  right  to  hear  and
   further to assure that the interest of the  consumers  will  receive  due
   consideration at appropriate fora. He further submitted  that  all  these
   fora are quasi-judicial authorities, therefore, are bound to observe  the
   principles of natural justice.


7. He further pointed out that the  amendment  of  Section  22  is  only  to
   empower the National Commission to function more explicitly  and  further
   to streamline the functioning of the consumer fora. The main grievance of
   the appellant is that the National Commission has provided  for  disposal
   of review application by circulation without oral arguments. Mr. Majithia
   submitted that the said Act has provided for promotion and protection  of
   the rights of the consumers which includes the right  to  be  heard.  The
   said Act has also provided that the principles of natural  justice  shall
   be adhered to by all  quasi-judicial  fora  which  include  the  National
   Commission. He submitted that the salient features of the Act are  sought
   to be rendered redundant by way of Regulation  15,  by  taking  away  the
   right of being heard and there is no adherence to principles  of  natural
   justice, thereby making it ultra vires to Section 22 of the said Act.  In
   these circumstances, he submitted that Regulation  15  should  be  struck
   down.


8. To fortify his submission, he relied on the decisions of  this  Court  in
   State of Orissa vs. Dr. (Miss) Binapani Dei and Ors[1] followed in Maneka
   Gandhi vs. Union of India[2] & Anr., Sahara  India  (Firm),  Lucknow  vs.
   Commissioner of Income Tax,  Central-I  &  Anr.[3]  and  Automotive  Tyre
   Manufacturers Association vs. Designated Authority and  Ors.[4],  and  it
   has been contended by Mr. Majithia that the courts have emphasized on the
   right of being heard time and again even when an order is  passed  by  an
   administrative  authority  and  that  written  arguments  cannot   be   a
   substitute for oral hearing. It is also the case of  the  appellant  that
   the national Commission has exercised  its  power  beyond  the  scope  of
   Section 30A of the Act while enacting Regulation 15, which in its present
   form defeats the objective of the amended Section 22 of the  Act  as  the
   right of making oral arguments is taken away from  the  consumer,  making
   the Regulation inconsistent with the objective of the Act.  It  has  also
   been submitted that the impression given by Regulation  15(2)  that  oral
   arguments can be  made  when  allowed  by  the  National  Commission,  is
   fallacious as it does not consider the fact that the Act  has  given  the
   prerogative  to  the  consumer  and  not  to  the  National   Commission.
   Moreover, this would also lead to inequality as some consumers are  given
   the right of being heard in open court and some are deprived of the  same
   at the discretion of the National Commission. Another submission  of  the
   learned counsel is that in the light of the principle that  justice  must
   not only be done but also be seen  to  have  been  done;  Section  22  is
   rendered redundant on account of Regulation 15 as the same is contrary to
   the principle of audi alteram partem which is  undisputedly  followed  by
   judicial and quasi-judicial bodies alike.


9.   We have perused Section 22 of the said Act. Under  Section  22(2),  the
   National Commission has been empowered to review an order made by it when
   there is an error apparent on the  face  of  the  record.  We  have  also
   noticed sub-section (1) of the said Act. It is a fact that this provision
   streamlines the functioning of the consumer  Redressal  forums  and  also
   reduces the number of appeals to the Supreme Court from the orders of the
   National Commission. The power of review did not  exist  earlier.  It  is
   trite law that unless the power of review is  specifically  conferred  by
   the statute, there cannot be any inherent power of review.


10. In the instant case, the power conferred by Section 22 of the  said  Act
   on the National Commission is not  an  inherent  power  and  further  the
   Commission has the power to review its  order  when  there  is  an  error
   apparent on the face of the record. We do not find any dispute  that  the
   Regulations have been framed in accordance with the power conferred under
   Section 30A on the Commission,  thereby  effecting  its  right  to  frame
   Regulations. Therefore, the Regulations have been  framed  in  accordance
   with law. We have minutely gone through Regulation 15(2) and  found  that
   power to deal with review applications  lies  with  the  Commission.  The
   procedure is to be adopted by the National Commission, whether the review
   petition would be decided after hearing the  parties  orally  or  can  be
   disposed of by way of circulation. Therefore, we do  not  find  that  any
   mischief has been done by framing the said Regulations. In  our  opinion,
   the said Regulations under Section 22 of the said Act, cannot be said  to
   be ultra vires the said Act. Accordingly, we do not find any substance in
   the arguments put up before us by Mr. Majithia. There  is  no  reason  to
   believe that the National Commission by enacting Regulation  15  exceeded
   its jurisdiction or the power vested in it under Section 30A of the  said
   Act, as has been tried to be contended by Mr. Majithia.


11. The other grievance of Mr. Majithia is that the National  Commission  in
   its Cause List specifically issued a notice that no proxy  counsel  shall
   be allowed to make submissions. According to him, such a direction is bad
   in law and is without any jurisdiction. According to him, such  direction
   is also arbitrary and illegal as it prevents a qualified lawyer  enrolled
   on the rolls of a State Bar Council from presenting his case  before  the
   National Commission. He further submitted that it is also in violation of
   Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution,  being  the  fundamental  right  to
   practice. He further stated that under Section 30 of the  Advocates  Act,
   1961, an Advocate, after having been enrolled,  has  a  right  to  appear
   before  the  courts  or  any  other  authority  and,  therefore,  it   is
   curtailment of the right of an Advocate. We find that under the Advocates
   Act, there is no terminology which defines “proxy counsel”. We have found
   in a very recent decision of this Court in S.L.P. (Criminal)  No.9967  of
   2011 (Sanjay Kumar v. The State of Bihar & Anr.), a three-Judge Bench  of
   this Court in its order dated January 28, 2014 has held as follows :


            “In such a chaotic situation, any  “Arzi”,  “Farzi”,  half-baked
      lawyer under the label of “proxy  counsel”,  a  phrase  not  traceable
      under the Advocates Act, 1961 or under the Supreme Court  Rules,  1966
      etc., cannot be allowed to abuse and misuse the process of  the  court
      under a false impression that he has a  right  to  waste  public  time
      without any authority to appear in the court, either from the litigant
      or from the AOR, as in the instant case. ….”






        Therefore, we do not find any substance in  the  submission  of  Mr.
Majithia with regard to “proxy counsel”.  We  also  do  not  find  that  the
decisions cited by Mr. Majithia before us can extend any help in  the  facts
and circumstances of this case.


12. The foundation, as it appears to  us  for  filing  this  appeal  by  the
   appellant, is only to curtail the rights of the  National  Commission  to
   adopt the procedure whether the review petitions will  be  decided  after
   granting an opportunity of being heard to the petitioner. From the  order
   of the High Court,  we  find  that  no  such  request  was  made  in  the
   application before the National Commission for  such  hearing.  In  these
   circumstances, the High Court correctly held that the  writ  petition  is
   misconceived and devoid of merit without even laying the basic foundation
   for having sought an oral hearing of the review application.  We  do  not
   find any reason to interfere with the order passed  by  the  High  Court.
   Accordingly, we uphold and affirm the said order and dismiss this appeal.

                                                           …....……………………..J.
                             (Gyan Sudha Misra)

                                                                  New Delhi;
                                                        .........…………………….J.
April 25, 2014.                                                  (Pinaki
Chandra  Ghose)
-----------------------
[1]     (1967) 2 SCR 625
[2]     (1978) 1 SCC 248
[3]     (2008) 14 SCC 151
[4]     (2011) 2 SCC 258

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