Exports Ltd. Vs. South Indian Corpn. (Agencies) Ltd. & ANR.  INSC
1251 (21 July 2009)
COURT OF INDIA RECORD OF PROCEEDINGS CIVIL APPEAL NO(s). 4290 OF 2003 E.I.C.M.
EXPORTS LTD. Appellant (s) VERSUS SOUTH INDIAN CORPN. (AGENCIES) LTD.&ANR.
Respondent(s) (With office report ) Date: 21/07/2009 This Appeal was called on
for hearing today.
MR. JUSTICE MARKANDEY KATJU HON'BLE MR. JUSTICE V.S. SIRPURKAR For Appellant(s)
Mr.Kailash Vasdev, Sr. Adv.
Gogia, Adv.for Ms. Jaspreet Gogia,Adv.
Respondent(s) Mr. E.C. Agrawala,Adv.
hearing counsel the Court made the following ORDER The Appeal is accepted in
terms of the Reportable signed order which is placed on the file and the matter
is remanded to the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi
to decide the complaint afresh in accordance with law by applying Section 24-A
of the Consumer
Protection Act, 1986. No order as to costs.
Kr. Chawla) ( Indu Satija) Court Master Court Master REPORTABLE IN THE SUPREME
COURT OF INDIA CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4290 OF 2003
E.I.C.M. Exports Limited ..Appellant versus South Indian Corpn. (Agencies) Ltd.
& Anr. ..Respondents ORDER
This Appeal has been filed against the impugned order of the
National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi (for short 'National
Commission') dated 06th February, 2003 passed in Original Petition No. 285 of
The facts of the case are:
Appellant is an export house. It had booked certain goods through respondent
No.1 for carriage through respondent No.2 to New York, U.S.A. According to the
appellant, the goods were expected to reach in the second week or early third
week of February, 1995. It is alleged that the goods were never delivered to
the consignee in New York, although the goods had allegedly reached New York.
According to the appellant, the goods were kept in the Custom's Bonded Ware
House in New York which demanded US Dollars 5000 as demurrage.
Since the shipment was delayed and consequently the foreign buyer
refused to accept the consignment, the appellant filed a complaint before the
National Commission seeking a direction to the respondents to pay a sum of
Rs.39,81,351/- along with interest thereon @ 24% per annum from the date of
filing of the petition till realization due to the negligence on the part of
The National Commission, by its impugned order, has dismissed the
complaint filed by the appellant as barred by limitation, applying Article III
Clause 6 of the Indian Carriage of Goods by Sea Act, 1925 in which limitation
of one year has been provided for filing a complaint.
Heard learned counsel for the parties.
Learned counsel for the appellant has contended that the National
Commission has erred in dismissing the complaint as barred by limitation,
applying the Indian Carriage of Goods by Sea Act, 1925 in which limitation of
one year has been provided. He further contended that this Act does not apply
at all to the facts of the present case and instead Section 24-A of the Consumer Protection
Act, 1986 will apply.
Article III, clause 6 of the Schedule of the Indian Carriage of
Goods by Sea Act, 1925 provides:
any event the carrier and the ship shall be discharged from all liability in
respect of loss or damage unless suit is brought within one year after delivery
of the goods or the date when the goods should have -3- been delivered. This
period may, however, be extended if the parties so agree after the cause of
action has arisen.
that a suit may be brought after the expiry of the period of one year referred
to in this sub-paragraph within a further period of not more than three months
as allowed by the court."
On a plain reading of the aforesaid provision, it is clear that
the aforesaid provision will be applicable in the cases where a suit is filed.
In the present case, the appellant did not file any suit but filed a complaint
before the Consumer Forum.
The word "suit" has a technical meaning which denotes
proceedings instituted under Section 9 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908. All
legal proceedings in the country are not suits. There are
petitions/complaints/applications before various Tribunals or authorities but
they are not suits as per Section 9 of the CPC.
In our opinion,
a complaint before Consumer Forum is not a suit, and hence, the Indian Carriage
of Goods by Sea Act, 1925 is not applicable to the facts of the present case
and the Consumer
Protection Act, 1986 will only be applicable.
counsel for the respondent contended that assuming that the Consumer Protection
Act will be applicable to the facts of the case; even then the complaint is
barred by limitation.
24-A of the Consumer Protection Act reads as under:
24-A - Limitation period - (1) The District Forum, the State Commission or the
National Commission shall not admit a complaint unless it is filed within two
years from the date on which the cause of action has arisen.
Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1), a complaint may be
entertained after the period specified in sub-section (1), if the complainant
satisfies the District Forum, the State Commission or the National Commission,
as the case may be, that he had sufficient cause for not filing the complaint
within such period:
that no such complaint shall be entertained unless the National Commission, the
State Commission or the District forum, as the case may be, records its reasons
for condoning such delay."
Sub-section (2) of Section 24-A, quoted above, clearly mentions
that a complaint can be entertained by the District forum, the State Commission
or the National Commission, as the case may be, even after the prescribed
period of two years if the complainant satisfies that he had sufficient cause
for not filing the complaint within such period.
Accordingly, we accept this appeal, set aside the impugned order
of the National Commission and remand the matter to the National Commission to
decide the complaint afresh in accordance with law by applying Section 24-A of
-5- the Consumer
Protection Act, 1986 and not the Indian Carriage of
Goods by Sea Act, 1925. If the National Commission comes to the conclusion that
the complaint had been filed beyond the prescribed period of two years, the
National Commission, after hearing both the parties, may condone the delay if
it is satisfied that the delay was because of sufficient cause and if it does
so it shall decide the case on merits.
We make it clear that this shall not be taken as an expression of
opinion as if we are inclined to condone the delay. The National Commission
shall be at liberty to decide this issue on its own merits in accordance with
law without being influenced by any of the observations made in this order.
No order as to costs.
.................J. [MARKANDEY KATJU]
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