Consumer Protection
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This article is written by Manhar Mahajan, pursuing a Certificate Course in Introduction to Legal Drafting: Contracts, Petitions, Opinions & Articles from LawSikho.com.

Introduction

The Constitution of India endeavours to establish ‘social justice’ in India. Although the Constitution does not provide for the term ‘consumer protection’, it is deemed that ‘social justice’ includes within its ambit the concept of ‘consumer protection’. To protect the interests and rights of consumers and other interrelated persons, the Parliament of India has enacted various legislations, the principal legislation being the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. The Act provides for speedy and economical redressal of consumer’s grievances by way of an alternative to the time consuming and expensive process of civil litigation. [1]

Consumer litigation is a very attractive field for the lawyers including the young lawyers due to lesser competition than the other fields and great profits. Therefore, it is very important for the lawyers to be well versed with the various matters under consumer litigation.

The Act provides for various forums at district, state and national levels for redressal of the consumer grievances. At the national level, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) is responsible for resolving consumer disputes. 

As per Section 58, NCDRC can entertain complaints where the value of goods or services paid as consideration is more than Rupees 10 Crore. NCDRC can also entertain complaints against unfair contracts, where the value of goods and services exceeds Rupees 10 Crores. NCDRC also has the power to hear appeals against the orders of the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission and Central Authority. 

Appeal under Section 67 of the Act

Section 67 of the Act provides that any person aggrieved by the order of NCDRC can file an Appeal before the Supreme Court within a period of 30 days from the date of the order. The Supreme Court may entertain the Appeal after the said period of 30 days if it is satisfied that there was sufficient reason for not filing it within that period. Appeal by a person, who is required to pay any amount in terms of the order of the NCDRC, shall be entertained only if he deposits 50% of that amount.

It is pertinent to note that the Appeal to the Supreme Court does not lie from the order of NCDRC if the order has been passed by NCDRC in an appeal from the order of the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission. Also, an Appeal from the order of the NCDRC cannot be filed to the Supreme Court if the former has passed the order in the course of execution proceedings under Section 71 of the Act. Therefore, under Section 67 the Appeal from order of NCDRC can only be filed in cases of complaints and unfair contracts where the value of goods and services exceeds Rupees 10 Crores. However, in a case where an Appeal from the order of NCDRC does not lie, the person aggrieved by the order can always approach the Supreme Court by way of Special Leave Petition under Article 136 of the Constitution.

In C.V. Ratnam vs Union Of India And Ors.[2] the Andhra High Court observed that Section 23 of Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (corresponding to the Section 67 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019) provides for a limited appeal to the Supreme Court from an order made by the National Commission i.e., when the same is passed in exercise of its original power.

In M/s Ambience Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. versus Ambience Island Apartment Owners & Ors.[3] the Supreme Court observed that having regard to Section 23 of Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (corresponding to the Section 67 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019) an Appeal will not lie to the Supreme Court if the NCDRC has passed the order in the course of execution proceedings.

Format of appeal under Section 67 of the Act

The format of the Civil Appeal against NCDRC order is[4]:

  • Synopsis

The Synopsis is the brief summary of the facts of the case. The Synopsis should be as succinct as possible and in spite of being brief it should be able to delineate the whole essence of the facts of the case. 

A good Synopsis is the one which is able to familiarize the judge with the facts of the case without wasting much of his time. This impresses the Judge and gives greater mileage to the advocate presenting the case.

Best way to start writing the synopsis is to note the major points and events and start writing a summary which flows in a smooth manner, so that it is easy to read. It is best if the Synopsis is written in numbered paragraphs with each major event described in separate paragraphs. The Synopsis should be clear and concise. Make sure to remove any excess words or other minute details which are not relevant to the essence of the case.[5][6]

  • List of dates and events

Under the head List of Dates and Events, all the events related to the facts of the case are listed out in the chronological order. If all the events are listed in chronological sequence then one does not have to go through the complete facts of the case to have the knowledge of the date of an event. This makes the task of Judges and the Lawyers easy and saves much of their time.

  • Name of the court and jurisdiction

Under this head following has to mentioned:

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

(CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION)

(UNDER SECTION 23 OF THE CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT, 1986)

CIVIL APPEAL NO. OF 20__”[7]

  • Cause title

The Cause Title acquaints the court with the Parties involved in the matter. Here, mention the names of the Parties in the “Appellants versus Respondents” format. Mention the names of all the Parties and corresponding to them write ‘Appellant’ or ‘Respondent’, as the case may be.

  • The appeal

Address the Appeal to the concerned Judge. Always begin the Appeal in the most humble ways like “Most Respectfully Showeth”. Here, mention the complete facts and circumstances of the case and the questions involved. The Appeal must be as comprehensive as possible, including every relevant detail, even if the length of the Appeal increases a lot. Do not miss out on even the minutest of the details if they are relevant to the case. Ensure that all the information included is true and accurate; even a very small inaccurate information mentioned can sometimes be very detrimental to the Appellant.

The key to drafting any legal document, including the appeal under Section 23 of the Act, is to draft it in a manner that it is easy to read and interpret even for a layman. To make the Appeal devoid of any ambiguity make sure to write it in active voice rather than in passive voice and always use the direct language. Another thing which may create confusion is the use of legal jargon, so it is best to avoid legal jargon and keep the language simple and easy. Always keep the language consistent; using variations in words to describe the same things may create confusion. Do not use intemperate language.

The use of correct spelling and grammar is very crucial to cast a good impression. To avoid the ambiguity ensure that the punctuation and the grammar is always correct. Many lawyers make the mistake of using incorrect punctuation- avoid it. Incorrect punctuation and grammar may distract the reader and takes away the true meaning of the document.

It is very important to pay attention to the imperatives. Some of the common imperatives are shall, will, must and should. It is very important to use the right imperative in the sentences to clearly elucidate your true intention. e.g. – the use of the word ‘shall’ creates a sense of obligation. [8][9]

A good lawyer always drafts a document in a way such that the interests of his clients are always favoured. Therefore, draft the Appeal in a manner which assails the Respondents case. Try to exclude the information which favours the Respondent or, if necessary, include it in an ambiguous way such that it does not seem detrimental to the Appellant.

  • Grounds

Grounds for Appeal is the most important clause. The Grounds may be legal or factual.

Grounds which are well-drafted help the Judge hearing the case to understand your arguments. A Judge is most likely to grant you permission to appeal if he knows clearly why you have a good case. So, persuade him through the Grounds.

It is advisable to include all the controversies involved and all the Grounds on which the Appellant is aggrieved. However, the Grounds should not be too general or vague. The Grounds which will have no effect on the outcome of the case should not be included.

The Grounds should be as simple, clear, precise and specific. The Courts do not favour the Grounds which are too lengthy, so be concise. The Grounds must be serially numbered.

Issues such as lack of proper opportunity of being heard or violation of any other principle of natural justice must be specifically brought out in the Grounds. [10][11]

  • Prayer

The Prayer is your whole case. The Prayer is the first thing the Courts look at. Therefore, drafting a prayer wrongly can have unfavourable consequences.

The Prayer should be precise and specific so that the Court understands what you want and which makes it easier for the Court to grant the relief sought. Clarity of the Prayer increases its chances of being enforceable. Ask for each separate relief in separate points. The Prayer clause should mention all the reliefs which the Appellant is seeking from the Court. To make the Prayer clause complete it must seek the alternative reliefs which the Court may deem fit, interim reliefs and the relief for costs, fees and interests on damages.[12][13]

In the end mention the Name and other details of the Appellant, Name of the Advocate of Appellant and the Date on which the Appeal is filed.

Conclusion

Drafting is an essential skill for the lawyers, especially when the stakes are very high as in Consumer Litigation. If an Appeal under Section 67 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 is well-drafted it increases the likelihood of the Judgment being granted in your favour. Therefore, the lawyers, while preparing the Appeal should follow the correct format and should always write clearly, precisely and only include the relevant details.

References

[1] https://blog.ipleaders.in/analysis-consumer-protection-laws-india/

[2] 2001 (6) ALD 35

[3] Civil Appeal Nos. 1213-1215 of 2017

[4]https://www.aaptaxlaw.com/Legal-Formats/civil-appeal-under-section-23-of-consumer-protection-act-1986-format-to-supreme-court-of-india.html

[5] https://blog.reedsy.com/how-to-write-a-synopsis/

[6] https://www.writersdigest.com/improve-my-writing/learn-how-to-write-a-synopsis-like-a-pro

[7]https://www.aaptaxlaw.com/Legal-Formats/civil-appeal-under-section-23-of-consumer-protection-act-1986-format-to-supreme-court-of-india.html

[8]https://beyondcounsel.io/10-tips-for-drafting-legal-documents-that-your-clients-will-be-able-to-read/

[9] https://www.thebalancecareers.com/seven-ways-to-improve-your-legal-writing-skills-2164712

[10] https://appealsbarrister.com/2017/04/10/writing-grounds-of-appeal/

[11] https://taxguru.in/income-tax/art-drafting-appeal-filing-appeal-cit-appeals.html

[12]https://www.arbitration-ch.org/asset/f6a1b40a64bfcb58a58be6524292f246/Wehland%20Hanno%20Drafting%20Prayers%20for%20Relief-Dos%20and%20Don’ts%20ASAb40%2011_17.pdf

[13]https://www.arbitration-ch.org/asset/7b9aed83b2e02803e0128f7f2d183b85/how-to-draft-prayers-for-relief-.pdf


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