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

“In a dispute concerning a consumer, it is necessary for the Courts to take a pragmatic view of the rights of the consumer principally since it is the consumer who is placed at a disadvantage vis-à-vis the supplier of services or goods. It is to overcome this disadvantage that a beneficent legislation in the form The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was enacted by Parliament. The provision of limitation in the Act cannot be strictly construed to disadvantage a consumer in a case where a supplier of goods or services itself is instrumental in causing a delay in the settlement of the consumer’s 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 the complainant shows sufficient cause.

However, in consumer complaints against air carriers, it is settled law, that the 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 Act 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.