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No express language that all pending cases would stand transferred to the fora under the 2019 act:SC

The Act of 2019, as indicated by its long title, is enacted to provide "for protection of the interests of consumers". The Statement of Objects and Reasons took note of the tardy disposal of cases under the erstwhile legislation. Thus, the necessity of inducing speed in disposal was to protect the rights and interests of consumers. The Act of 2019 has taken note of the evolution of consumer markets by the proliferation of products and services in light of global supply chains, e-commerce, and international trade. New markets have provided a wider range of access to consumers. (Para 66)


Civil Appeal Nos. 3766-3767 of 2020

Decided on 16th March 2021

A Two-Judge bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court comprising Justice Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud and Justice M R Shah presided over the present appeal where the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) denied having jurisdiction of the Appellant’s case due to new provisions being added into the Consumer Protection Act(herein referred to as “the Act”).

Upon the payment of an advance of Rs.3.50 lacs on 25 November 2011 by the Appellants, the Respondent provisionally allotted a residential unit in a real-estate project described as KRESCENT Homes, Jaypee Greens, Noida. The total consideration was fixed at Rs.56.45 lacs and possession was intended to be conveyed within a period of 42 months from the execution of the agreement of the provisional allotment letter. On 13 June 2017 and 27 April 2020, the appellant sought a refund of the consideration together with interest at 18 percent. On 18 June 2020, the appellants instituted a consumer complaint before the NCDRC for a refund with interest. The consumer complaint has been dismissed by an order dated 30 July 2020 for want of pecuniary jurisdiction. A single-member bench of the NCDRC held that following the enforcement of the Act of 2019 on 20 July 2020, the limits of its pecuniary jurisdiction stand enhanced from rupees one crore to rupees ten crores and the complaint instituted by the appellants is consequently not maintainable.

The issue which arises in the appeals is whether a complaint that was filed and registered under the Act of 1986, before the new Act of 2019 came into force, has to be entertained under the provisions of the erstwhile legislation. In anticipation of the enforcement of the Act of 2019, an administrative notice was issued by the NCDRC on 17 July 2020 to allow the functioning of its registry for fresh filings on 18 July 2020, since the new law was to come into force on 20 July 2020. The appellants are also aggrieved by the fact that contrary to the position taken in its case, other Benches of the NCDRC have admitted complaints instituted before 20 July 2020.

Learned Counsel appearing on behalf of the Appellants urged the following submissions (i) Section 107(3) of the Act of 2019 gives full effect to the provisions of Section 6 of the General Clauses Act, which means that nothing in the repeal of the earlier legislation will affect pending proceedings which may continue as if the new legislation has not been enacted. (ii) The relevant date is the date of the institution of the suit and not when the case comes for hearing or for decision. In the present case, the earlier legislation was in force when the complaint was filed and hence the rights and obligations which accrued on that date would stand saved. (iii) The third limb of submissions is that there is no provision for the transfer of pending cases in the new Act of 2019.

Learned Senior Counsel appearing on behalf of the Respondent submitted that: (i) The basic principle of law is that when a statute is repealed, everything stands obliterated. (ii) Where a law takes away a right of action or appeal, it is treated as a substantive alteration and does not apply to pending actions. A mere change in the forum is to be distinguished from a substantive alteration. The Act of 2019 is a law that repeals the earlier legislation and created a new hierarchy of courts and it must, consequentially, be treated as retroactive. (iii)Law provides for a change in the forum, this is treated as a matter of procedure and not of substance.

After analyzing the various precedents mentioned in Part C of this judgment, this court concluded that “For the above reasons, we have come to the conclusion that proceedings instituted before the commencement of the Act of 2019 on 20 July 2020 would continue before the fora corresponding to those under the Act of 1986 (the National Commission, State Commissions and District Commissions) and not be transferred in terms of the pecuniary jurisdiction set for the fora established under the Act of 2019. While allowing the appeals, we issue the following directions:

(i) The impugned judgment and order of the NCDRC dated 30 July 2020 and the review order dated 5 October 2020, directing a previously instituted consumer case under the Act of 1986 to be filed before the appropriate forum in terms of the pecuniary limits set under the Act of 2019, shall stand set aside;

(ii) As a consequence of (i) above, the National Commission shall continue hearing the consumer case instituted by the appellants;

(iii) All proceedings instituted before 20 July 2020 under the Act of 1986 shall continue to be heard by the fora corresponding to those designated under the Act of 1986 as explained above and not be transferred in terms of the new pecuniary limits established under the Act of 2019; and

(iv) The respondent shall bear the costs of the appellant quantified at Rupees Two lakhs which shall be payable within four weeks.” (Para 71)



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