50% deposit of decreed amount to file appeals not retrospective: NCDRC

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The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) has done away with the requirement of asking individuals or companies to deposit half the payment ordered by the State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commissions as a precondition for admitting their appeals.

The Commission said that this condition was introduced in the Consumer Protection Act on July 20, 2020 and won’t apply to complaints or orders passed before this date.

The new condition was inserted as an amendment to Section 51(1) of the newly amended Consumer Protection Act 2019 and was challenged by several individuals and companies before a two-member bench of the NCDRC.

The new condition stated thus, “Provided further that no appeal by a person, who is required to pay any amount in terms of an order of the State Commission, shall be entertained by the National Commission unless the appellant has deposited 50% of that amount in the manner as may be prescribed.”

The Commission noted that prior to this amendment, parties who filed appeals before the National Commission were required to either deposit 50% of the amount required to be paid in terms of the State Commission order or a sum of Rs 35,000, whichever is less.

The Commission bench headed by President RK Agrawal and Member SM Kantikar said, “We are of the considered opinion that now it is well-established that a right of Appeal is a vested and a substantive right which cannot be altered, modified by putting stringent conditions as that right of Appeal had accrued to the person concerned from the date of initiation of the proceedings i.e. from the date of filing of the Complaint before the appropriate fora under the 1986 Act.”

Since the amended provision was not retrospective in operation, the Commission held that the said condition will not apply to complaints already pending in the District Consumer court or State Commission or National Commission. The Commission allowed the appeals filed by the petitioner individuals and companies to be registered as they all arose out of complaints filed prior to the amendment.

Advocate Kunal Cheema who argued the case before the National Commission said, “This judgment will be helpful to all whose complaints were in existence before the new Act of 2019 came into force. So whenever the order is passed in future and they are filing first appeal, they will be able to do it as per the conditions of the old Act with a cap of Rs 35,000 and not 50 per cent of the decreed amount.”

The Commission was hearing six set of appeals filed by various individuals and companies against separate orders passed by the State Commissions of Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka, Odisha and Karnataka. The appeals were not registered as they did not comply with the amended condition of depositing 50 per cent of the amount as directed by State Commissions. However, they had deposited Rs 35,000 as required by the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

The Commission allowed registration to all these appeals by stating, “We are of the considered opinion that the Second Proviso of Sub-Section (1) of Section 51 of the 2019 Act shall not be applicable where the person aggrieved is challenging the order passed by the State Commission in an appeal arising out of a complaint case filed prior to 20/24 July 2020 when the 2019 Act came into operation/was enforced.”

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