Kumar Singh (D) Thr LRS. Vs. Distt. Magistrate, Sultanpur & Ors.  INSC
1409 (7 August 2009)
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CIVIL APPEAL NO. 5165 OF
2009 [Arising out of S.L.P.(C)No.20515 of 2005] Madan Kumar Singh (D) Thr. LR.
....Appellant Versus Distt. Magistrate, Sultanpur & Ors. ...Respondents
WITH CIVIL APPEAL NO. 5166 OF 2009 [Arising out of S.L.P.(C)No.11210 of 2006]
For the sake of convenience, facts have been taken from the appeal
arising out of S.L.P.(C)No.20515 of 2005.
Appellant was an auction purchaser of a truck bearing registration
No. UP I-4775, put to an auction sale, on account of default in payment of
instalments committed by its previous owner Iqbal, having taken loan from Union
Bank of India under "Self Employment Scheme". Recovery Certificate
was issued to the Collector, Sultanpur (U.P.) by the said bank. The auction was
held in the Tehsil Compound, Sultanpur, on 19.8.1999. The appellant's bid for a
sum of Rs. 70,000/- being the highest, was knocked down in his favour and
accepted by respondent No. 1.
As per the terms and conditions of the auction, appellant
deposited a sum of Rs. 20,000/-, as soon as the bid was knocked down in his
favour. Since no objection was received against the said auction sale, the
appellant deposited balance amount of Rs. 50,000/- on 20.8.1999.
On 19.9.1999, the said auction was confirmed, since no objections
were received much less, from the previous owner Iqbal. Thus, it was treated to
be a final sale in favour of the appellant.
Obviously, after the sale having been confirmed in favour of the
appellant, he was entitled to receive possession of the truck, which was not
delivered to him by the respondents. Thus he made a representation on
30.11.1999 for delivery thereof. He continued to make several representations
with the respondents for delivery of the truck purchased in the auction and
also to hand over to him the documents so that the vehicle could be transferred
in the name of the appellant so as to enable him to ply the same. It appears
that truck was delivered to the appellant after about six months from the date
of auction sale, for which no plausible reasons were assigned by the
Despite handing over possession of the truck at a belated stage,
respondents did not deliver necessary documents of the truck to the appellant
so as to enable him to get the vehicle transferred in his name, thereby
depriving him of its commercial use, the purpose for which he had purchased.
He was therefore, constrained to file a petition under Section 12
of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (for brevity, 'the Act') claiming damages.
Appellant was ultimately delivered the possession of the truck on
14.3.2000, during the pendency of the complaint before the District Forum. The
relevant papers thereof were not handed over to him for a long time but on
persistent requests, the same were handed over to him some time in the month of
January, 2005. Thus after a lapse of more than five years from the date, the
auction was confirmed in favour of the appellant.
The District Consumer Forum dismissed the complaint of the
appellant holding therein that appellant is not a "consumer" within
the definition of the Act.
Feeling aggrieved, appellant filed an appeal before the State
Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow which was
registered as Appeal No. 2327 of 2000. The State Commission dismissed the
appeal with certain observations reproduced herein below:
District Consumer Forum Sultanpur has dismissed the complaint on the finding
that such matters are not cognizable by it under COPRA. No error at all can be
found in the aforesaid finding. It is open to the appellant to file copy of
this order before District Magistrate Sultanpur with such prayer relating to
the documents of the vehicle as advised. The District Magistrate will deal with
such representation in accordance with law and pass necessary orders within two
Pursuant thereto, appellant submitted representation to the
District Magistrate on 17.2.2003 and continued to remind them that they have to
deliver the necessary documents to the appellant so as to enable him to get the
vehicle transferred in his name, which would further enable him to use the same
for commercial purposes.
Against the order of the State Commission, appellant filed
Revision Petition No. 929 of 2003 before the National Consumer Disputes
Redressal Commission, New Delhi. The same came to be disposed of vide impugned
order on 18.5.2005 and the complaint filed by appellant has partly been allowed
with the following directions:
view of the long delay, we are inclined to grant damages to the extent of Rs. 25,000/-
along with cost of Rs.5000/- payable by the respondents to the Petitioner
jointly and severally. In view of the facts and circumstances of the case, we
direct the District Magistrate, Sultanpur, U.P. to conduct an inquiry into the
matter and fix the responsibility including the recovery of this awarded amount
from the officers who are found guilty of deficiency/negligence in this
Feeling aggrieved thereby the auction purchaser Madan Kumar Singh
(since dead) preferred a Special Leave Petition whereas respondents have also
preferred Special Leave Petition against Madan Kumar Singh (since dead).
The original appellant having died during the pendency of the
appeal, his legal representative was brought on record.
We have, accordingly, heard the learned counsel for the appellant
Mr. R.K. Kapoor and learned counsel for the respondents Mr. R.K. Gupta at
length. Perused the record.
The questions which arise for consideration in the aforesaid
appeals are (i) whether the appellant can be said to be 'consumer' within the
definition of Section 2(1)(d) of the Act; and (ii) whether it can be said that
there has been deficiency in the services committed by respondents as
contemplated under Section 2(1)(g) of the Act.
It is pertinent to mention here that even though respondents were
parties before the District Consumer Forum, State Commission, as also before
the National Commission but they neither preferred to file any objections nor
participated in the proceedings. Thus were proceeded ex-parte throughout.
Even though there has been long and chequered history of various
litigations in the High Court of Allahabad and a civil suit which were either
at the instance of previous owner of the truck Iqbal Ahmed or by Maqsood Ahmed,
apparently set up by Iqbal Ahmed but we are not concerned with the same, in the
aforesaid appeal. Needless to say that in none of the proceedings either
initiated by Iqbal Ahmed or his stooge Maqsood Ahmed there was any order of
stay granted by any court that appellant herein should not be delivered the
relevant documents of the truck, so as to enable him to start plying the same.
It is trite to say that mere filing of a Petition, Appeal or Suit,
would by itself not operate as stay until specific prayer in this regard is
made and orders thereon are passed.
There is nothing on record to show that any stay was granted in
favour of any party, restraining the respondents not to deliver the papers of
the truck to the appellant. It would go to show that respondents were
unlawfully holding back the papers with them, for which, otherwise they were
not entitled to do so.
To deal with the question projected hereinabove in the aforesaid
appeal, it is necessary to go through the definition of 'Consumer' as contained
in Section 2(1)(d) of the Act.
"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
[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
[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.
For the purposes of sub- clause (i), "commercial purpose" does not
include use by a consumer of goods bought and used by him exclusively for the
purpose of earning his livelihood, by means of self- employment;]".
Plain reading of the same makes it abundantly clear that appellant
herein would fall in the category of a 'consumer' as he had bought the truck
for a consideration which was paid by him.
bought to be used exclusively for the purpose of earning his livelihood by
means of self- employment. The said pleading by way of amendment was
incorporated by the appellant in his application filed under Section 12 of the
Act, before the District Consumer Forum but proper cognizance thereof has not
A further reading of the aforesaid definition of 'consumer' makes
it clear that Parliament wanted to exclude from the scope of the definition the
persons, who obtain goods for resale and also those who purchase goods with a
view to use such goods for carrying on any activity for earning. The immediate
purpose as distinct from the ultimate purpose of purchase, sale in the same
form or after conversion and a direct nexus with profit or loss would be the
determinants of the character of a transaction-whether it is for a
"commercial purpose" or not. Thus, buyers of goods or commodities for
"self consumption" in economic activities in which they are engaged
would be consumers as defined in the Act.
Apart from the above, it may also be seen that the purchase of the
truck by the appellant would also be covered under explanation to Section
2(1)(d) of the Act. The appellant had mentioned categorically that he had
bought the said truck to be used exclusively by him for the purpose of earning
his livelihood, by means of self- employment. Even if he was to employ a driver
for running the truck aforesaid, it would not have changed the matter in any
case, as even then appellant would have continued to earn his livelihood from
it and of course, by means of self- employment. Furthermore, there is nothing on
record to show that he wanted to use the truck for any commercial purpose.
Thus, the question No.1 is answered in favour of the appellant
that he would be deemed to be a consumer within the definition as contained in
Section 2(1)(d) of the Act.
Coming to question No.2 whether there has been a deficiency in the
services committed by respondents as contained in Section 2(1)(g) and (o) of
the Act or not, "deficiency" and "services" have been
defined as under:
"deficiency" means any fault, imperfection, shortcoming or inadequacy
in the quality, nature and manner of performance which is required to be
maintained by or under any law for the time being in force or has been
undertaken to be performed by a person in pursuance of a contract or otherwise
in relation to any service.
"service" means service of any description which is made available to
potential users and includes provision of facilities in connection with
banking, financing, insurance, transport, processing, supply of electrical or
other energy, board or lodging or both, [housing construction], entertainment,
amusement or the purveying of news or other information, but does not include
the rendering of any service free of charge or under a contract of personal
The facts mentioned hereinabove would go to show that appellant
having been declared as highest bidder had deposited the initial money and next
day deposited the balance of the consideration. The truck in question was
actually handed over to him almost after six months from the date of auction in
his favour. Even after getting delivery of the truck he could not have started
plying the same unless he was delivered the relevant papers thereof. There is
no dispute, which even otherwise stands proved from the voluminous material
available on record that despite best efforts made by the appellant, the
relevant papers of the truck were handed over to him only after six years from
the date of the auction. No plausible or convincing reasons have been assigned
by the respondents for not doing so.
From the narration of the aforesaid facts, it is clearly made out
that respondents were at fault in performance of the services which was
otherwise required to be performed by them. What more could be the deficiency
in service cannot be described.
to us, respondents were certainly imperfect and the same would amount to
shortcoming in quality in providing the service to the appellant.
Thus, in our considered opinion, all the ingredients, to enable
the appellant to claim damages under the Act were made out. This has in fact
been found by the National Commission also, that is why it proceeded to award
compensation of Rs. 25,000/- to the appellant.
Now, the question that arises for consideration before us is
whether the amount of compensation awarded to the appellant is just and proper
or deserves to be enhanced.
Even though the appellant claimed damages @ Rs.500/- per day and
interest at 5% on the amount of Rs.70,000/- deposited by him for the price of
the truck in addition, he further claimed damages for mental and social
injuries to the tune of Rs.50,000/- + litigation expenses but in absence of any
cogent and valid evidence available on record, it is not proper to consider the
reliefs as claimed by the appellant. However, there is no doubt that the
appellant suffered loss of earning firstly due to non-delivery of vehicle and
then due to highly belated supply of requisite documents. Moreover, the value
of the truck also depreciated resulting in further loss to him. Thus, in our
opinion, the amount awarded by National Commission is too meagre and deserves
to be enhanced.
During the course of arguments, Sh. R.K. Gupta, learned counsel
for the respondents also made submissions that since the documents pertaining
to the truck were received late from the bank, therefore, the same could not be
delivered to the appellant herein. However, this plea had not been taken by the
respondents nor it is reflected from any of the documents filed by respondents
in their own appeal. It is, therefore, clearly an afterthought and has been
taken so as to shield the unwarranted action of the respondents.
The conduct, behaviour and attitude of the respondents,
throughout, have been highly reprehensible. When the bank had issued a Fard
Nilami and respondents were entrusted with the job of auction then the said
auction should have been implemented fully in letter and spirit. Once the
highest bid of the appellant was knocked down in his favour, pursuant thereto,
he had deposited the requisite amounts, then as a necessary consequence thereof
he should have been delivered the truck immediately along with the necessary
reasons best known to the respondents they had not only delayed delivery of the
truck but had also, despite the efforts made by the appellant, not handed over
the papers of the truck to him for long number of years. Any explanation
offered during the course of the arguments is not acceptable to us, which
certainly shows their malafide intentions.
Even assuming for a moment that bank had not delivered the papers
of the truck to the respondents then it was the duty of the respondents to have
insisted the bank for delivery of the papers which they had failed to do. Thus,
in any case, there cannot be any escape of the respondents from shaking off the
liability fastened on them by the National Commission.
Taking the totality of the situation as it exists, we are of the
opinion that a total amount of Rs. 1,00,000/- payable by respondents jointly or
severally to the appellant would subserve the justice.
Even though the Act specifically does not authorise to grant
interest but in appropriate cases, grant of interest on the facts and
circumstances of the case is permissible. The same has been done by this Court
in long catena of cases.
In this case also, keeping the circumstances under which appellant
was made to run from pillar to post, to get the documents of the truck from the
respondents, we are of the opinion that ends of justice would be met if
interest at the rate of 6% p.a. from the date of the original application till
actual payment of the aforesaid enhanced awarded amount is made by the
respondents. We accordingly do so. The appeal arising out of SLP(C) No.20515 of
2005 is allowed with costs and Appeal arising out of SLP (C) No.11210 of 2006
is dismissed with costs. Counsel fee assessed at Rs.10,000/- each.
..................... ...J. [S.B. SINHA]
.......................J. [DEEPAK VERMA]
August 07, 2009.