Economic Adventures of Statutory Bodies

Hon’ble Judges R.F. Nariman and Indu Malhotra, on 13.07.2018, questioned the view of Hon’ble Judges D.M. Dharmadhikari and B.N. Srikrishna, as declared on 14.01.2005 [HUDA v. Sunita, (2005) 2 SCC 479]. The question was right.

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It is established that a beneficial or remedial legislation needs ‘fair and liberal interpretation’ [Om Prakash, (2017) 9 SCC 724]. The definition of ‘service’ under Section 2(1)(o) of The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is not exhaustive. This indicates requirement for a liberal interpretation. 

The welfare activities of statutory bodies through economic adventures are covered under jurisdiction of Consumer Forums. The Act protects the aggrieved against certain acts of statutory bodies. The test is whether the nature of the duty and function performed by the statutory body is a ‘service’ or even a ‘facility’. If the statutory body, other than core sovereign duties, is providing ‘service’, then, unless statutes exempt or provide immunity or provide an alternative, Consumer Forums would continue to have jurisdiction. Their power extends to redressing injustice caused by mala fide/capricious/oppressive acts done by a statutory body. However, sovereign functions like judicial decision making, the imposition of tax, policing etc, strictly understood, qualify for exemption from the Act. 

– Hon’ble Justice N.V. Ramana, Punjab Urban Planning & Development Authority v. Vidya Chetal, [Special Leave Petition (Civil) No. 4272 of 2015].