Uttarakhand High Court: Consumer Grievances Redressal Forum Is a Tribunal

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The present case is M/s. Hotel Urvashi v. Uttarakhand Power Corporation Ltd. & Another. The Appellant is a company registered under the Companies Act, 1956. The Appellant was a consumer of the electricity of the Respondent. On a surprise check, they found that the respondent tampered with the meter. Though the actual current consumption was high, the meter reading was very low. They replaced the old meter with the Check Meter. A demand notice based on the assessment was given.
On examination, it was found to be tampered. The Appellant was ordered to pay and upon failure, and the amount was increasedThe Appellant then filed a consumer complaint before the CGRF. CGRF stands for Consumer Grievances Redressal Forum. Without hearing the objection of the Respondent on maintainability, the order was passed on merit. The Respondent preferred a writ to quash the order. The Court allowed the writ petition and hence the intra-court appeal. The main question is, Whether the intra-court appeal is maintainable?

Respondent’s Arguments

They submitted that the appeal is not maintainable. Considering Rule 5 of the Allahabad High Court Rules 1952 remedy of intra-court appeal is not available. As per Rule 5, the CGRF is a ‘Tribunal’. Hence, the appeal is not maintainable.

Appellant’s Arguments

They contended that the CGRF is not a ‘Tribunal’ as per Rule 5. It is only an appointee of the Uttarakhand Electricity Regulatory Commission. Hence, the appeal is maintainable.

Court’s View

A. Precedents

The CGEF is under Rule 7(1) of the Electricity Rules, 2005. The Court observed that a tribunal generally is any person or institution. It has the authority to judge, adjudicate on or determine claims or disputes. It is not necessary that it is a tribunal in its title. The Court also referenced Bharat Bank Limited v. Employees of the Bharat Bank, 1950 SCR 459. Therein, the Apex Court observed the importance of tribunals. It stated that quasi-judicial tribunals have also become part of the social and political system. They have judicial powers analogous to those normally carried out by courts of law.

B. Cases referred

Furthermore, reference was made to Jaswant Sugar Mills Ltd, Meerut v. Lakshmichand and Others, AIR 1963 SC 677. It has been observed that a judicial decision always postulates a duty. A duty to act judicially. A judicial decision is an act by law to determine the question. Such determination affects the rights of citizens. Similarly, Kihoto Hollohon v. Shri Zachilhu, AIR 1993 SC 412 was taken in consideration. Wherein, the Court set out a test. A test to determine whether an authority is a Tribunal or not. It held as follows:

“…dispute necessarily involves a decision on the rights and obligations of the parties to it and the authority is called upon to decide it, there is an exercise of judicial power. That authority is called a Tribunal if it does not have all the trappings of a Court.”

The Supreme Court’s Constitutional Bench decision was the reference. The case of Associated Cement Companies v. P. N. Sharma and Anr., AIR 1965 SC 1595. Wherein, the main test is to determine the inherent judicial power. If the authority is under the State’s inherent judicial power to deal with disputes between parties, and to determine them on merits, fairly and objectively. Hence, it held that an Additional Labour Commission is a Tribunal.

C.  Present Case

The Court noted the object and reason of the Electricity Act, 2003 (“the Act”). It referred to Section 181 of the Act. It empowers the State Commission to make regulations and issue guidelines. In view of Sec. 181(2) read with Sec. 42(5), the Uttarakhand Electricity Regulatory Commission Regulations 2007 came up. The said Regulations laid down the procedure for the redressal forum. Regulation 2(1)(d) defines “complaint” and 2(1)(f) defines “forum”.

The Court observed that the forum is a statutory body. Its duty is to settle a dispute raised by consumers. While settling disputes it must follow the regulations. Moreover, the decision rendered by the forum is binding and final, subject to the appeal to the Ombudsman. Non- compliance of the order by forum can attract appropriate action. Hence, the Court applied the above-mentioned test. It held that the CGRF has juridical power and therefore a ‘Tribunal’. It is not a purely administrative body.

Court’s Decision

The Bench comprised of C.J., Ramesh Ranganathan & J., Alok Kumar Verma. The Court referenced to Shah Babulal Khimji vs. Jayaben D. Kania and another, 1981 (4) SCC 8. Wherein the Court held that right of an appeal is dependent upon the statute. Rule 5 of the Allahabad High Court Rules makes it absolutely clear that no appeal shall lie against a judgement rendered in the exercise of the jurisdiction conferred under Art. 226 and 227 of the Constitution. Hence, intra-appeal is not maintainable.


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