A three member bench of Supreme Court comprising Justice Anil R Dave , Justices Vikramjit Sen and P C Ghose , while disposing the civil appeal nos.10941-10942 OF 2013 under Consumer Protection Act,1 986 of New India Assurance Co . Ltd versus Hilli Multipurpose Cold Storage Pvt Ltd held that
the District Forum can grant a further period of 15 days to the opposite party for filing his version or reply and not beyond that .
In other words , a Party Will Not Get More Than 45 days for Filing Reply in Consumer Case .Otherwise , it will fail the intention of the legislation to expedite the decision on the grievance of a consumer .
The bench analysed Section 13(2) (a) as under
“Section 13(2)(a) that the District Forum may extend the period, not exceeding 15 days, to the opposite party for giving his version. The relevant Section of the Act reads as under:
“13. Procedure on admission of complaint –
(2) The District Forum shall, if the complaint admitted by it under section 12 relates to goods in respect of which the procedure specified in sub-section (1) cannot be followed, or if the complaint relates to any services, –
(a)refer a copy of such complaint to the opposite party directing him to give his version of the case within a period of thirty days or such extended period not exceeding fifteen days as may be granted by the District Forum;
The court while reiterating the views taken up in Dr.J.J.Merchant held as below :
“15. Upon hearing the concerned counsel and upon perusal of both the judgments referred to hereinabove, which pertain to extension of time for the purpose of filing written statement,we are of the opinion that the view expressed by the three- Judge Bench of this Court in Dr. J.J. Merchant (supra) should prevail.
16.In the case of Dr. J.J. Merchant (supra), which is on the same subject, this Court observed as under:
“13. The National Commission or the State Commission is empowered to follow the said procedure. From the aforesaid section it is apparent that on receipt of the complaint, the opposite party is required to be given notice directing him to give his version of the case within a period of 30 days or such extended period not exceeding 15 days as may be granted by the District Forum or the Commission. For having speedy trail, this legislative mandate of not giving more than 45 days in submitting the written statement or the version of the case is required to be adhered to. If this is not adhered to, the legislative mandate of disposing of the cases within three or five months would be defeated.
14.For this purpose, even Parliament has amended Order 8 Rule 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure, which reads thus:
“1. Written statement. – The defendant shall, within thirty days from the date of service of summons on him, present a written statement of his defence:
Provided that where the defendant fails to file the written statement within the said period of thirty days, he shall be allowed to file the same on such other day, as may be specified by the court, for reasons to be recorded in writing, but which shall not be later than ninety days from the date of service of summons.”
15.Under this Rule also, there is a legislative mandate that written statement of defence is to be filed within 30 days. However, if there is a failure to file such written statement within the stipulated time, the court can at the most extend further period of 60 days and no more. Under the Act, the legislative intent is not to give 90 days of time but only maximum 45 days for filing the version of the opposite party. Therefore, the aforesaid mandate is required to be strictly adhered to.
17. We are, therefore, of the view that the judgment delivered in the case of Dr. J.J. Merchant (supra) holds the field and therefore, we reiterate the view that the District Forum can grant a further period of 15 days to the opposite party for filing his version or reply and not beyond that .”