JCB India Ltd. v. Pawan Sood & Ors, II (2013) CPJ 35B (CN) (H.P.)

This case dealt with the jurisprudence of defining ‘consumer’ under the Consumer Protection Act and also with the validity of the precedents decided before the Amendments in the Act.
Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

Introduction

The case JCB India Ltd. v. Pawan Sood & Ors [1] deals with the following issues:

  • Whether the respondent in the particular case will be a called a consumer?
  • Can the respondent invoke the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 to be entitled to certain compensation?
  • The jurisdiction of the District Forum to address the dispute and accept the complaint. 
  • The validity of the warranty period of the JCB machine. 
  • The validity of the precedents decided before the Amendments in the Act. 

Facts of the case in brief

Pawan Sood, the respondent purchased a machine from JCB, the appellant, through respondent number 2 (Krishna Automobiles) who was a contractor. The warranty period given was of a year. Soon after the purchase, the machine started showing defects and giving trouble. It was found that the engine had a manufacturing defect. The engine was then replaced at the workplace of the manufacturer. The respondent prayed that the manufacturers, (the respondent), for compensation of losses suffered due to the same reason. The respondent requested them to replace the engine. The compensation was asked because the machine had been lying idle for a long time even though a lot of money had been invested in it.

Facts in Issue

  1. Whether the respondent will be considered a consumer?
  2. Whether the District Forum has the jurisdiction to entertain and decide the complaint filed?

Contentions from both the parties in the District Forum

  1. The complaint was contested by the appellant JCB wherein it was stated that the respondent is not a consumer as he had purchased the machine for commercial purposes. They further contested that the District Forum did not have territorial jurisdiction to entertain the complaint. It was stated that there were no manufacturing defects but the engine had still been replaced by them for the respondent while the complaint was pending and so they are not entitled to pay for the compensation as it was fixed within the warranty.
  2. The respondents stated that after the replacement of the engine with a new one, it still had some defects and so the compensation demanded by the respondents was justified on their part. 
  3. It was concluded by The District Forum that the respondent was a consumer and was entitled to the compensation. 

Contentions from both the Parties in the State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission

  1. The case was then taken to the State Commission where earlier the respondent filed a complaint against Pawan Sood (respondent no. 1) and the other respondents. 
  2. The Commission held that the respondents are not to be considered as consumers under section 2(1)(d) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
  3. They believe that the respondent is a contractor and has purchased the machine as a contractor and not as a consumer which means that the machine was used for commercial purposes and not by a consumer earning their livelihood by using the help of 1 or 2 people. 
  4. The counsel of the respondent states that the complaint is not just regarding the defect in the machine but also the service of warranty. The question of whether the good was purchased for commercial purpose or by a consumer is irrelevant in this case. 
  5. The earlier statement was supported by two precedents of the National Commission; Pearlite Lines Ltd. versus Thermo Jarrell Ash Corporation and another   and secondly, East India Construction Co. versus Modern Consultancy Services and others. 
  6. The above two precedents mentioned were not valid in this case as they were decided before the amendment of Section 2(1)(d) when the term “commercial purpose’ was not excluded from the definition of Consumer. Hence, the said precedent is not applicable in the case. This was held in the case M/s. Allengers Medical System Limited versus Beena Sharma.  

Summary of the Judgement of The State Commission

The State Commission, after the following contentions, held that the appeal of the Complainant is accepted. The Commission had recorded a finding by the National Commission that the respondent (earlier the appellant) is not a consumer. 

Further, the District Forum was not performing under their jurisdiction when they accepted this complaint in the first place. The order of the District Forum was held to be unsustainable.

Analysis

The court’s decision is appropriate to an extent. The law defines a ‘consumer’ and since the respondent, in this case, had purchased the machine for commercial purpose, he would not be considered a consumer.

The point that the court missed was that the respondent had received a defect in the machinery. The court started focussing on whether that person is a consumer or whether it is under the jurisdiction of the District Forum to accept the complaint. The points are correct, the reasoning is correct but the addressing of the problem where a man requires justice and resolution of the dispute on the matter where a defective machine has been sold , and the court is of the view that since the respondent is not a consumer, he cannot avail the remedies, is incorrect.

The law also lacks the same, it is just the consumers who can get relief in this situation. What about those involved in commercial business? Is it fair for them to deal with defective technology? This was also the scenario in a case Laxmi Engineering Works v. P.S.G. Industrial Institute where the law lacks provisions to address the problems of a commercial producer. 

Conclusion

The things that need urgent attention is the fact that in consumer disputes like these, the focus should be laid on the actual problem and not what is contended by the opposing party to defend themselves. Dispute resolution should be secondary. The primary thing or task to be completed first is the actual analysis of the problem of the party that is suffering despite investing in something so expensive. The defect in the machine and the losses incurred by the respondent were the real problem here. The focus, on the other hand, was diverted to the jurisdiction, whether the complaint can be accepted, precedents, recorded decisions etc. They hardly focussed on the validity of the problem and how it could be sorted. 

Lastly, the law requires deep reviewing to make it easier for parties involved in commercial purposes to fight for justice and effective solutions to their problem. The way the complaints are addressed highlights the dependency of the justice systems on precedents or relying on definitions mentioned in the law. 

Under the Consumer Protection Act,2019; Mediation cells have been established for resolving of disputes and reaching a common conclusion as a settlement. this is something that has not been considered in this case as settlements are a lot less complicated and save time and money. Further, there is relaxation when it comes to filing cases with the court from anywhere, and this had resulted in a reduction of a major problem of jurisdiction as earlier it was necessary for the parties to file the case where the seller was located, saving time and money. 


[1]  JCB India Ltd. v. Pawan Sood & Ors, II (2013) CPJ 35B (CN) (H.P.)

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