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Judicial Detour Of The Landmark Judgements On Consumer Rights

"The interest of the consumer has to be kept in the forefront and the prime consideration that an essential commodity ought to be made available to the common man at a fair price must rank in priority over every other consideration." Justice Y.V Chandrachud in Prag Ice and oil Mills v Union of India, (1978) 3 SCC 459

Every person is a consumer regardless of factors like occupation, age, sex, religion, caste, gender and various other biological factors. Consumer their rights and welfare are integral part as they are the deciding factor behind all the economic activities. It is a universally accepted fact that consumer rights and protection is a true indicator behind the level of progress of a nation.

In the line of international scenario, the Parliament of India enacted Consumer Protection Act in the year 1986 which provides a forum for a speedy and redressal of consumer disputes. The preamble of the Consumer Protection Act 1986 works to provide for the protection of the interest of the consumer and establishes consumer councils for the settlement of consumer disputes. The present blogs highlight important judgements which deals with consumer rights and welfare.

Landmark Judgements

  1. Corporate Bodies Are Also Within The Purview Of Consumer Protection Act:

    In Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation v Ashok Iron Works limited (2009) 3 SCC 240 the issue before the Supreme Court pertains that whether a private company purchasing electricity for commercial purpose can be included within the ambit of term consumer under the Consumer Protection Act? The Supreme Court of India delivering judgement in favour of Ashok Iron Works Limited held that company is a consumer within the definition of Section 2(1)(d)(i) of Consumer Protection Act 1986. This is the landmark case where the Supreme Court of India has widened the meaning of consumer and included within its ambit the corporate bodies.
  2. Medical Services Are Also Within The Scope Of Consumer Protection Act:

    In Indian Medical Association v V.P Shantha 1995 (6) SCC 651 the issue before three-judge bench of the Supreme Court was that whether the services of a medical practitioner and their services are within the ambit of Consumer Protection Act? The Supreme Court delivered the landmark judgement and held that the services of the medical profession are within the ambit of word 'service' as defined under Section 2(1)(o) of the Consumer Protection Act and a medical practitioner can be held liable for negligence and also liable to pay compensation for the damage suffered by victim.
  3. Discovery Of The Rule Of Medical Negligence And Period Of Limitation:

    In Dr. V.N Shrikhande v Anita Sena Fernades the respondent who was working as a nurse complained of abdominal pain in the year 1993 and on dated 26th November 1993 Dr. V.N Shrikhande after examining the pathologist report revealed that the respondent had stones in her Gall Bladder upon which operation was conducted and respondent was discharged from the hospital on dated 30th November 1993.

    In next 9 years the respondent i.e., Anita suffered pain in the abdomen after surgery but she had not contacted the same doctor in 9 years who conducted her operation. Anita was regularly taking pain killers and she had to remain on leave at regular intervals. By the year 2002 Anita was admitted to a hospital and after C.T Scan it was revealed that there are well -defined round masses in the left lobe of her liver. Anita was admitted in Lilavati Hospital and was operated and histopathology report prepared by the Lilavati Hospital revealed that there were several gauze pieces left in the abdomen.

    Having written to many letters to Dr. V.N Shrikhande, respondent asked for compensation and having failed to receive any favourable response, Anita filed a complaint in State Commission and same was dismissed on the ground that the complaint was not filed within the period of two years and the same was filed after 9 years.

    Pursuant to the judgement of National Commission, Dr. V.N Shrikhande filed an appeal before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court rejected the case on the ground of limitation and the court while highlighting the discovery rule of negligence says that it is not applicable in the present case due to the reason that she must have consulted doctor if she was experiencing pain. The court rejected claim of respondent on the ground of period of limitation.
  4. Failure To Provide Occupancy Certificate A Deficiency:

    In Samruddhi Co-operative Society Ltd v Mumbai Mahalaxmi Construction Ltd. 2022 SCC Online SC 35 the Supreme Court ruled out that failure on the part of the respondent to provide occupancy certificate is a deficiency in service on the part of the respondent and members of the appellant society are within their rights as consumers to claim compensation as a recompense for the consequent liability.
  5. Can More Than One Consumer Institute A Complaint Under The Consumer Protection Act:

    In Brigade Enterprise Ltd v Anil Kumar 2021 SCC Online SC 1283, the question before the bench of the Supreme Court was that can more than one consumer can institute a complaint under the Act. The court answered to this question by citing the following example "a case where a residential apartment is purchased by the husband and wife jointly or by a parent and child jointly. If they have a grievance against the builder, both of them are entitled to file a complaint jointly. Such a complaint will not fall under Section 35(1)(c) but fall under Section 35(1)(a). Persons filing such a complaint cannot be excluded from Section 2(5)(i) on the ground that it is not by a single consumer."
Time and again by various landmark judgement of the court, the rights and welfare of the consumer has been widened. The present blog attempts to highlight some of the landmark judgements of the court. Thus, the need of time is that every consumer should have basic awareness of their rights and duties. The government should make immense effort so that consumers may become aware of their rights.

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