Time frame within which a complaint can be filed

As per Section 24A of Consumer Protection Act, 1986, a consumer complaint can be filed within two years from the date on which the cause of action arises.

The time when cause of action arises is an important factor in determining the time limit available to file a complaint. The decision will be taken depending on the facts and circumstances of each case.

Below examples will help understand time limt :

1. A got his eye operated by B in 1989. He got a certificate of blindness on 18th December, 1989. He was still in hope of gaining his sight and went for second operation in 1992 and was discharged on 21-1-1992. He filed a complaint against B on 11-1-1994. B opposed on the ground that more than 2 years were over after 18-12-1989, thus the complaint is not maintainable. The Commission held that here the cause of action for filing the complaint
would arose after the second operation when A lost entire hope of recovery. Thus the suit is maintainable.

2. A got operated for a stomach ailment. He developed pain after two years and it was found that some rubber part was left in the stomach by mistake which caused the pain. A is entitled to file a case as the cause of action was continuing.

3. A house was allotted on 1-1-1999. Defects appeared in the house on 10-1-1999. Here the cause of action will arise on 10-1-1999.

It may be noted that these time frames are not absolute limitations. If the Consumer Forum is satisfied that there was sufficient cause for not filing the complaint within the prescribed period, it can entertain a complaint beyond limitation time. However, the complainant should file a petition seeking condonation of delay and the Forum must record the reasons for condonation of delay.

Example : A deposited some jewellery with a bank. Bank lost it. Bank kept giving her false sense of hope to retrieve the jewellery, and thus A was put in a state of inaction. Later on when A filed a suit on the Bank, it claimed that the suit was not maintainable as the limitation time after the cause of action arose has lapsed. The Commission reprimanded the bank and admitted the case –
Agnes D’Mello v. Canara Bank [1992] I CPJ 335 (NCDRC).

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