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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Trust is not a person and therefore not a consumer.= A reading of the definition of the words ‘complaint’, ‘complainant’ and ‘consumer’ makes it clear that a Trust cannot invoke the provisions of the Act in respect of any allegation on the basis of which a complaint could be made. To put this beyond any doubt, the word ‘person’ has also been defined in the Act and Section 2(m) thereof defines a person as follows :- (m) "person" includes, - (i) a firm whether registered or not; (ii) a Hindu undivided family; (iii) a co-operative society; (iv) every other association of persons whether registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 (21 of 1860) or not On a plain and simple reading of all the above provisions of the Act it is clear that a Trust is not a person and therefore not a consumer. Consequently, it cannot be a complainant and cannot file a consumer dispute under the provisions of the Act.

                                                              NON-REPORTABLE

                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                        CIVIL APPEAL NO. 3560 OF 2008

Pratibha Pratisthan & Ors.                                ….Appellants

vs.

Manager, Canara Bank & Ors.
…Respondents

                                    WITH

                        CIVIL APPEAL NO. 3561 OF 2008



                               J U D G M E N T



Madan B. Lokur, J.

1.    In these appeals a very short question has arisen, namely,  whether  a
complaint can be filed by a Trust  under  the  provisions  of  the  Consumer
Protection  Act,  1986  (for  short,  ‘the  Act’).   The  National  Consumer
Disputes Redressal Commission (for short,  ‘National  Commission’)  answered
the question in the negative and we are in agreement with that view.

2.    Section 2  (c)  of  the  Act  provides  for  a  complainant  making  a
complaint, inter alia, for an unfair trade practice or a  restrictive  trade
practice adopted by any trader or service provider; a complaint  in  respect
of goods (bought by a complainant) suffering from one  or  more  defects;  a
complaint of deficiency in services hired or availed  of  by  a  complainant
and so on.  A complainant is defined in Section 2 (b)  of  the  Act  in  the
following words :-

(b)     "complainant" means  -

(i)       a consumer; or

(ii)   any voluntary consumer association  registered  under  the  Companies
Act,1956 (1 of 1956) or under any other law for the time being in force;  or


(iii)    the Central Government or any State Government;  or

(iv)    one or more consumers, where there  are  numerous  consumers  having
the same interest;

 (v)    in case of death of a consumer,  his legal heir or representative  ;
who or which makes a complaint;



3.    It is quite clear from the above definition of a complainant  that  it
does not include a Trust.  But does a Trust come within the definition of  a
consumer?

A consumer has been defined in Section 2 (d) of the Act as follows :-
(d) "consumer" means any person who, -

(i) buys any goods for a consideration which has been paid  or  promised  or
partly paid and partly promised, or under any  system  of  deferred  payment
and includes any user of such goods other than  the  person  who  buys  such
goods for consideration paid or promised or partly paid or partly  promised,
or under any system of deferred payment, when such  use  is  made  with  the
approval of such person, but does not include  a  person  who  obtains  such
goods for resale or for any commercial purpose; or

(ii) hires or avails of any services for  a  consideration  which  has  been
paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system  of
deferred payment and includes any beneficiary of such  services  other  than
the person who hires or avails of  the services for  consideration  paid  or
promised, or partly paid  and  partly  promised,  or  under  any  system  of
deferred payment, when such services are availed of  with  the  approval  of
the first mentioned person; but does not include  a  person  who  avails  of
such services of any commercial purpose;

 Explanation. -  For the purposes  of  this  clause,   "commercial  purpose"
does not include use by a person  of  goods  bought  and  used  by  him  and
services availed  by  him  exclusively  for  the  purposes  of  earning  his
livelihood by means of self-employment;



4.    A reading of the definition of the  words  ‘complaint’,  ‘complainant’
and ‘consumer’ makes  it clear that a Trust cannot invoke the provisions  of
the Act in respect of any allegation on  the  basis  of  which  a  complaint
could be made.  To put this beyond any doubt, the  word  ‘person’  has  also
been defined in the Act  and  Section  2(m)  thereof  defines  a  person  as
follows :-
(m)    "person" includes, -

 (i)      a firm whether registered or not;

 (ii)    a Hindu undivided family;

(iii)    a co-operative society;

(iv)    every other association of  persons  whether  registered  under  the
Societies Registration Act, 1860 (21 of 1860) or not



5.    On a plain and simple reading of all the above provisions of  the  Act
it is clear that a Trust is not a  person  and  therefore  not  a  consumer.
Consequently, it cannot be a complainant and cannot file a consumer  dispute
under the provisions of the Act.

6.    In view of the above, we are of opinion that the  National  Commission
was quite right in holding that the complaint filed by the  appellant  Trust
was not maintainable.

7.    We have heard submissions of learned counsel for the  parties  on  the
merits of the dispute. However, since we have concluded that  the  complaint
itself was not maintainable, we refrain  from  making  any  comment  on  the
merits of the dispute.

8.    The appeals are dismissed.


                                                               ..……………………….J
                                           (Madan B. Lokur)




New Delhi;
.………………………J
March  7,  2017
       (Prafulla C. Pant)

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