Strict Adherence to Statute of Limitations Essential, Despite Potential Hardship: NCDRC

( NCDRC )The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, chaired by Mr. Subhash Chandra with Dr. Sadhna Shanker as a member, emphasized that adherence to the law of limitation is paramount, even if it may result in hardship for a party. The Commission ruled that courts are not empowered to extend the limitation period on equitable grounds, underlining the importance of strict adherence to statutory provisions.


The complainant, enticed by an advertisement from the Punjab Urban Planning & Development Authority, applied for a plot in ‘Gateway City’ and paid the earnest money. After paying a total of ₹18,76,770, they were allocated a plot. However, upon inspection, they found the site to be uninhabitable, misrepresented, and situated in a riverbed area, with no official allotment letter provided. Seeking either an alternative plot or a refund, the complainant lodged a consumer complaint. The developer, GMADA, and the landowner, M/s EMMAR Land Limited, were identified. Despite an offered plot, the complainant insisted on a full refund. Upon refund, ₹11,05,420 was returned after deductions. The complainant, alleging unfair trade practices, took the matter to the State Commission, Punjab, demanding the remaining balance of ₹7,71,350 with 18% interest per annum, along with damages for mental agony and litigation costs. The State Commission dismissed the complaint, prompting the complainant to appeal the decision before the National Commission.


The development authority countered the complaint, refuting any deficiency in service or unfair trade practice. They disputed the complainant’s classification as a ‘consumer’ and asserted that the plot was acquired for speculative purposes. While acknowledging the plot application and payment, they denied any encroachment on land, maintaining that the plot location was accurately depicted. They attributed the dispute to the complainant’s failure to fulfill further payments and offered an alternative plot. Allegations were made regarding the complainant’s violation of terms by not completing installments and emphasized their non-compliance with refund procedures despite numerous communications.


The commission reiterated that condonation of delay cannot be claimed as an automatic entitlement; the applicant must provide compelling reasons that prevented them from approaching the Court/Commission within the stipulated limitation period. Citing the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s precedent in Ram Lal and Ors. vs. Rewa Coalfields Limited, they emphasized that even upon demonstrating sufficient cause, condonation of delay is not guaranteed. Referring to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Basawaraj & Anr. vs. The Spl. Land Acquisition Officer, the commission elucidated on the definition of ‘sufficient cause,’ stressing the necessity for courts to discern whether any mistake is genuinely made or merely a facade to serve ulterior motives. Despite acknowledging the potential hardship posed by the law of limitation, the commission underscored its rigorous application when prescribed by statute, noting the absence of judicial authority to extend limitation periods on equitable grounds. They also referenced the Supreme Court’s guidance in Anshul Aggarwal vs. New Okhla Industrial Development Authority, advising Consumer Forums to consider the unique provisions of the Consumer Protection Act in such matters. In this instance, the Commission deemed the delay insufficient cause and consequently dismissed the appeal.

Posted and reproduced in Public Interest by

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