High Court of Punjab and Haryana, Chandigarh
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Union of India v. National Consumer Awareness Group and ot - CWP-3418-2005  RD-P&H 3281 (18 May 2006)
IN THE HIGH COURT OF PUNJAB & HARYANA AT CHANDIGARH
Civil Writ Petition No. 3418 of 2005
Date of decision: May 22,2005
Union of India V. National Consumer Awareness Group and others CROAM: HON'BLE MR JUSTICE VINEY MITTAL
HON'BLE MR. JUSTICE H.S.BHALLA
Present: Shri Puneet Jindal, Advocate, for the petitioner.
Shri Mukand Gupta, Advocate for the respondents.
The petitioner, Union of India, through Divisional Engineer Northern Railway, Ferozepur Division has filed the present petition. The challenge is to the order dated November 17,2003 passed by the District Consumer Redressal Forum, Muktsar ( hereinafter referred to as the "District Forum") and the order dated December 9,2004 passed by the State Consumer Redressal Commission,Punjab ( hereinafter referred to as the "State Commission"). The aforesaid orders have been appended as Annexures P/1 and P/4, respectively, with the present petition.
On December 17,2002, a complaint under section 12 of the Consumer Protection Act,1986 ( hereinafter referred to as the "Act") was filed by respondent No.1, National Consumer Awareness Group Regd.
which claims itself to be a Consumer Association. The aforesaid complaint was filed primarily against the Railway authorities, the State Government, Deputy Commissioner, Muktsar, Senior Superintendent of Police, Muktsar, Municipal Council, Muktsar and P.W.D. (Public Health Department), Muktsar. Directions were sought against the aforesaid respondents to the following effect:
Civil Writ Petition No.3418 of 2005 2
"1. To provide road under bridge at Railway Crossing No.29 and service road at Bura Gujjar Road, Muktsar.
II To provide double/widen of Railway Crossing No.30 and road divider on Muktsar-Jalalabad Road Muktsar for smooth flow of traffic to road users.
III. To provide with quick operating lifting crossing barriers in place of type manual gates crossing at Railway Crossing No.31 at Muktsar.
IV. To provide/extended railway line No.3 between the both railway crossings i.e. 29 and 30 at Railway Station, Muktsar.
V. To remove all the encroachments i.e. Temporary Police Chowki/Stairs/Ramps/Thadas/Electric Telephone Poles near Railway crossing No.30 and to construct dividers on both side of Railway Crossing No.30 on Muktsar- Jalalabad Road in Muktsar by Municipal
VI To remove/shifting of temporary sewerage pumping Kotha situated in Chowk near Railway Crossing No.30 on Muktsar-Jalandhar Road.
VII. To pay compensation to the tune of Rs.50,000/- on account of litigation expenses and other expenses occurred due to unavoidable litigation proceedings to the complainant."
The aforesaid complainant claimed that because of the Railway lines situated in the City of Muktsar, the City of Muktsar is divided in two parts. There was a congestion on the road and traffic jams on account of the Railway crossing remaining closed for a long period. In these circumstances, while making various allegations with regard to traffic congestion, unauthorised encroachments etc. the aforesaid reliefs were claimed.
The claim made by the complainant was seriously contested by Civil Writ Petition No.3418 of 2005 3
the respondent-Railway and other officials. The jurisdiction of the District Forum was challenged. It was specifically claimed that the aforesaid reliefs claimed by the complainant were not within the domain of the District Forum nor the complaint filed by the complainant was legally maintainable.
The claim of the complainant on merits of the controversy was also contested.
Vide order dated November 17,2003, the District Forum allowed the complaint filed by the complainant. A copy of the order dated November 17,2003 passed by the District Forum has been appended as Annexure P/1 with the present petition. The relevant observations made by the District Forum and the operative part of the order dated November 17,2003 may be extracted as follows for ready reference: "..........We have also carefully examined the Ex.C-7 i.e.the map of railway crossing no.29 and we also carefully examined the EX C-13 i.e.is cabin log book register which shows that railway phatak on crossing no.29 occasionally remain close and shows the heavy traffic of trains everyday. Moreover there are three major schools at Bura Gujjar Road and the students of the schools have to cross this crossing every day. Moreover it is admitted by the opp. Parties that there are three major schools after crossing the railway crossing no.29 at Bura Gujjar Road. It is also admitted by the op. Parties that the railway line in Muktsar city divide the city into two parties so we are also in opinion that there should be a under bridge on railway crossing no.29 as to remove the problem of closing railway phatak for long prod due to loading-unloading and shunting of special goods trains. We have also carefully examine the EX C-8 i.e. map of railway crossing no.31 which shows and octroi etc. and like freight and passenger tariffs etc.
which the opposite parties charged from public and the present complaint is also about public grievance though it is filed by above group. We fully agree with Civil Writ Petition No.3418 of 2005 4
these judgments so the complaint is maintainable.
As per the discussion above and circumstances of the complaint, we are of the considered opinion that the complaint deserves acceptance. So we accept the complaint and direct the opposite parties to make road under bridge at railway crossing No.29 and to make double/widened of railway crossing No.
30 and make road divider on the Muktsar Jalalabad Road at railway crossing No. 30 after removal of all types of encroachments as per law and other things which make restrictions in the traffic flow on the railway cross both side at crossing No. 30 and to make quick operating lifting crossing barrier on railway crossing No.31 and extend the railway line No.3 upto dead end. The above opposite Parties are further directed that the tender for this work should be called within four months next from the date of receipt of copies of this order and the above directed work must be completed within eight months.
We also direct the opposite Party No.8
to remove the temporary sewerage pumping Kotha situated at chowk near railway crossing No.30 on Muktsar Jalalabad Road within four months from the date of receipt of the copy of this order. The parties are left to bear their own cost and no order of compensation."
An appeal was filed by the General Manager, Northern Railway before the State Commission. The aforesaid appeal was barred by limitation.
Consequently, an application for condonation of delay was also filed along with the appeal. The State Commission vide an order dated December 9,2004 refused to condone the delay in filing the appeal and, consequently, dismissed the application for condonation of delay. As a result thereof, the appeal filed by the aforesaid appellant was also dismissed as barred by limitation. A Copy of the order dated December 9,2004 passed by the State Civil Writ Petition No.3418 of 2005 5
Commission has been appended as Annexure P/4 with the present petition.
It is in these circumstances, petitioner, Union of India has chosen to approach this court through the present petition.
We have heard the learned counsel for the parties and have also gone through the record of the case.
At this stage, we also take note of the fact that when the present petition was filed, then a notice of motion was issued by a Division Bench on May 3,2005. Notice regarding stay was also issued. However, a perusal of the record shows that during the pendency of the present petition, execution proceedings were initiated by the complainant and warrants of arrest were issued against the officers of the Railways by the District Forum. Subsequently, vide order dated September 30,2005, execution proceedings before the District Forum were stayed.
Shri Puneet Jindal,learned counsel appearing for the petitioner has argued that the entertaining of the complaint by the District Forum and passing of order Annexure P/1 was wholly beyond jurisdiction of the District Forum inasmuch as, the complainant,respondent No.1 could not be treated to be a consumer within the meaning of the provisions of the Act nor Union of India and other respondent would be treated to be service providers. Shri Jindal has also argued that the District Forum has,as a matter of fact, entered into the realm of governance and has issued such directions which were even beyond the jurisdiction of the court of law. Consequently, it has been contended by the learned counsel that the orders Annexure P/1 passed by the District Forum and Annexure P/4 passed by the State Commission were liable to be set aside.
On the other hand, Shri Mukand Gupta, learned counsel appearing for respondent No.1 has attempted to defend order Annexure P/1 passed by the Consumer Forum. It has been argued by the learned counsel that the public at large was facing serious hardship,therefore, the District Forum was wholly justified in intervening in the matter and issuing the necessary directions.
We have duly considered the aforesaid contentions of the learned counsel and find that the order dated November 17,2003 Annexure P/1 passed by the District Forum is wholly beyond the jurisdiction and powers conferred upon the District Forum under the provisions of the Act.
Civil Writ Petition No.3418 of 2005 6
We have already noticed reliefs claimed by the complainant,respondent No.1 in the complaint filed by it before the District Forum. We have also noticed the observations made by the District Forum and the directions issued while finally disposing of the complaint. We are satisfied that the District Forum has entered into the realm of urban planning and governance, the matters which are totally beyond the scope of jurisdiction conferred upon the District Forum under the Act. May be the allegations levelled by the complaint-respondent No.1 that there were serious traffic problems,hardship on account of the closing of railway crossing as well as because of the unauthorised encroachments caused on the municipal lands by various persons are well based.. However, the aforesaid matters were to be dealt with by the competent authorities as per various policy decisions and as per budgetary and other financial allocations as well as the urban planning requirements. We are surprised at the wide ranging directions issued by the District Forum. The District Forum has directed the railway authorities to make a road under bridge at railway crossing No.29 and make double/widen the railway crossing No.30 after removal of all types of encroachments. Further directions were issued to the railways and others to issue tender work within four months from the date of receipt of copy of the order and that the work must be completed within eight months. Party No.8 has also been directed to remove the temporary sewerage pumping kotha situated at Chowk near railway crossing No.30 within four months. As a matter of fact, we find that while issuing the aforesaid directions, the District Forum has, in fact, acted like a sovereign. Neither any finding has been recorded with regard to the fact as to whether there was any relationship of consumer and service provider between the parties to the litigation or as to whether there was a deficiency in service to be provided by the opposite party, District Forum has merely chosen to issue the aforesaid directions merely having been enrazed by the allegations levelled by the complainant. We are absolutely satisfied that the aforesaid directions issued by the District forum and entertaining of the complaint on behalf of complainant,respondent No.1 by it was totally beyond the jurisdiction of the District Forum.
Consequently, we quash order dated November 17,2003, Civil Writ Petition No.3418 of 2005 7
annexure P/1 passed by the District Forum. As a result thereof, orders Annexure P/4 passed by the State Commission are also set aside.
The present petition is allowed in the aforesaid terms.
( Viney Mittal )
May 22,2006 ( H.S. Bhalla )
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