MANU/SC/0033/2003

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

Civil Appeal Nos. 9927 of 1996 and 4613 and 4614/1999 and W.P. (C) Nos. 417/1996 and 12/2000

Decided On:17.01.2003

Appellants: State of Karnataka
Vs.
Respondent: Vishwabarathi House Building Coop. Society and Ors.

Hon'ble Judges/Coram:
V.N. Khare, C.J., K.G. Balakrishnan and S.B. Sinha

JUDGMENT

S.B. Sinha, J.

1. The primal question involved in this batch of appeals and the Writ Petitions is the constitutionality of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (hereinafter called "the Act").

2. civil Appeals No. 4613 and 4614 of 1999 filed by Vishwabharathi House Building Cooperative Society arise out of a judgment and order dated 18.12.1998 passed by a division bench of the High Court of Karnataka upholding the vires of the Consumer Protection Act, 1985 (the Act). State of Karnataka has filed the Appeal being C.A. No. 9927 of 1996 against the judgment and order of the Karnataka High Court questioning certain observations made therein as regards interpretation of Section 25 of the Act.

3. Dr. R.D. Prabhu and Shri. B. Krishna Bhat and others filed the Writ Petitions under Article 32 of the Constitution of India questioning the constitutionality of the said Act.

4. The contentions raised on behalf of Appellants Petitioners are as under:

(1)(a) The Parliament is not empowered to establish hierarchy of Courts like the District Fora, State Commission and the National Commission parallel to the hierarchy of Courts established under the Constitution, namely, District Courts, High Courts and Supreme Court in the absence of a suitable amendment made in the Constitution of India in terms of Article 368 thereof.

(b) Such hierarchy of consumer courts established under the Act would result in conflict of decisions with the hierarchy of courts established under the Constitution dealing with similar matters.

(2) The Parliament having regard to the provisions of Articles 323-A & 323-B of the Constitution of India could not enact the Act by establishing forums which are substitute of the civil Courts including the High Court.

(3) The provisions of the said Act strike at the independence of the judiciary.

(4) As the Act does not contain any provision to transfer a case from one consumer court to another and furthermore the forum and the Constitutions having no power to pass interim orders, the functioning thereof is unworkable.

(5) The Parliament can only establish courts which may deal with special subjects specified therefore but not a court which will run parallel to civil courts.

5. Before adverting to the question as regard the competence of the Parliament to enact the said Act, we may notice the history of legislation leading to enactment of the said Act.

6. The Secretary General, United Nations submitted draft guidelines for consumer protection to the Economic and Social Council (UNESCO) in 1983. The General Assembly of the United Nations upon extensive discussions and negotiations among governments on this scope and content thereof adopted the guidelines which inter alia provide for the following:

"Taking into account the interests and needs of consumers in all countries, particularly those in developing ........