“By specifically enacting a provision under Sub-Section (3) of Section 13, with a specific clarification that violation of the principles of natural justice shall not be called in question where the procedure prescribed under Sub-Sections (1) and (2) of Section 13 of The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 has been followed or complied with, the intention of the Legislature is clear that, mere denial of further extension of time for filing the response would not amount to denial or violation of the principles of natural justice. This provision of Section 13(3) reinforces the time limit specified in Section 13(2)(a).
It has been held by this Court in the case of Popat Bahiru Govardhane, (2013) 10 SCC 765 that, the law of limitation may harshly affect a particular party but it has to be applied with all its vigour when the statute so prescribes and that, the Court has no power to extend the period of limitation on equitable grounds, even if the statutory provision may cause hardship or inconvenience to a particular party. It is well settled that, law prevails over equity, as equity can only supplement the law, and not supplant it.
This Court in the case of Laxminarayan R. Bhattad, (2003) 5 SCC 413 has observed that, “when there is a conflict between law and equity the former shall prevail.” In P.M. Latha, (2003) 3 SCC 541 this Court held that, “equity and law are twin brothers and law should be applied and interpreted equitably, but equity cannot override written or settled law.” In Nasiruddin, (2003) 2 SCC 577 this Court observed that, “in a case where the statutory provision is plain and unambiguous, the Court shall not interpret the same in a different manner, only because of harsh consequences arising therefrom.” In E. Palanisamy, (2003) 1 SCC 123 it was held that, “equitable considerations have no place where the statute contained express provisions.” In India House, (2003) 9 SCC 393 this Court held that, “the period of limitation statutorily prescribed has to be strictly adhered to and cannot be relaxed or departed from by equitable considerations.”
We are of the considered opinion that, the view expressed by this Court in the case of J. J. Merchant, (2002) 6 SCC 635 is the correct view.
Judgment to operate prospectively.”
– Hon’ble Justice Vineet Saran, New India Assurance Co. Ltd. v. Hilli Multipurpose Cold Storage Pvt. Ltd., [Civil Appeal Nos. 10941-10942 of 2013].
On ‘prospective operation’, opinion of Daddy’s Builders Private Limited v. Manisha Bhargava, (2021) 3 SCC 669 was, ‘prospective operation’ would apply only in cases where delay stood condoned on a date prior to 04/03/2020. It would be an ‘artificial distinction’ to distinguish between applications for condonation of delay already decided before 04/03/2020 and applications for condonation of delay pending on 04/03/2020. In our opinion, this issue ought to be decided by a Larger Bench.
– Two-Judge Bench, Bhasin Infotech & Infrastructure Private Limited v. Neema Agarwal, [Civil Appeal Nos. 73-74 OF 2021] decided on 08.12.2021.
Strictly speaking, observations in Daddy’s Builders Private Limited v. Manisha Bhargava, (2021) 3 SCC 669 were not necessary for its decision. New India Assurance Co. Ltd. v. Hilli Multipurpose Cold Storage Pvt. Ltd., (2020) 5 SCC 757 did not make a distinction between applications for condonation of delay already decided before 04/03/2020 and applications for condonation of delay pending on 04/03/2020. Such applications for condonation would be entitled to benefit of position in Reliance General Insurance Company Limited v. Mampee Timbers and Hardwares Private Limited, (2021) 3 SCC 673 which directed Consumer Fora to render a decision on merits.
– Three-Judge Bench, Diamond Exports v. United India Insurance Company Limited, [Civil Appeal No. 7546 of 2021] decided on 14.12.2021.