The Plea of Limitation X: Section 24A of The Consumer Protection Act, 1986

“The provision of limitation in The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 cannot be strictly construed to disadvantage, where a supplier of goods or services itself is instrumental in causing a delay in the settlement of the claim.”

Hon’ble Justice Madan B. Lokur, National Insurance v. Hindustan Safety Glass Works Ltd., [Civil Appeal No. 3883 of 2007].

Under Section 24A, no complaint is admitted unless it is filed within 2 years from the date on which the cause of action arose. This delay can be condoned if complainant shows sufficient cause.

However, in complaints against air carriers, it is settled law, complainant is barred, even if he shows sufficient cause, to bring an action for damages after 2 years [reckoned from the date of arrival at the destination, or from the date on which the aircraft ought to have arrived, or from the date on which the carriage stopped]. The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 cannot trump The Carriage by Air Act, 1972.

Airlines are known to cause inordinate, fiction-shattering delays in settling claims for litigants, especially those identified to rely more on correspondence and insistence than a Court of Law. Justice Lokur’s observation, widely reported, should (not) be interpreted as an inroad into that strategy.