On 1-9-2009, a Two-Judge meber Bench of the Hon’ble Court passed a judgement in Civil Appeal No.7587 of 2004, stating as follows:-
“In our opinion when there is a special remedy provided in Section 7-B of the Indian Telegraph Act regarding disputes in respect of telephone bills, then the remedy under the Consumer Protection Act is by implication barred”
“It is well settled that the special law overrides the general law. Hence, in our opinion the High Court was not correct in its approach”
Based on this Judgement the Consumer Forums and Commissions are Dismissing a large number of complaints and Appeals filed by consumers against BSNL.
Now, the debatable issues are :-
1) A Three-Jude member Bench had passed a judgement earlier, in Skypak Couriers vs Tata Chemicals (2000), it asserted that even if there existed arbitration clause in a contract, a complaint can be made before the consumer forum if there was deficiency in service. The Three-Judge Bench stated that this was because the consumer law was an additional remedy open to the aggrieved person.
The question is whether a Two-Judge Bench can upset the Law Laid down by a Three-Judge Bench ?
2) In Fair Air Engineers vs NK Modi (1997), the court stated that the consumer forums should not relegate the complaining party to “cumbersome arbitration proceedings”. Parliament was aware of the provisions of the Arbitration Act, the Contract Act and the Civil Procedure Code remedies. The Court had observed that “Nonetheless the Consumer Protection Act provides an additional remedy”
3) Lastly, the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is a Special Law. Indian Telegraph Act also is a Special Law. Hence , a special law cannot override another special law.VT Venkataram, Advocate & Consumer Activist,
Bangalore Rural District.