The Advisory Boar
In August 2010, I filed a case at my local District Consumer Forum in
Delhi over Exide's refusal
to replace a faulty battery under warranty. In November 2012, after
nearly two and a half years of filings, hearings, and adjournments, the
Consumer Forum issued a
judgement in my favour,
asking Exide to replace the faulty battery and pay compensation.
Today, Exide sent me three new batteries and a cheque.
I called the District Consumer Forum this morning to enquire about the
judgement I was told to expect in a week at my
last hearing in
October. I was told the judgement was ready, and that I should collect
it. I did so forthwith.
Here's the interesting part (the last paragraph):
The complainant of this case has been subjected to harassment, he
need[s] to be compensated. We allow this complaint and direct the
OP to replace the battery in
question within a period of 30 days with a fresh warranty of one year.
We further award a compensation of Rs.6000/- to the complainant which
will also include the cost of litigation.
The judgement was entered on 2012-11-05, and the office keeps one copy
for each party to the case for a month; if it is not collected within
that period, it is dispatched by registered post. I expect Exide will
receive its copy in the second week of December.
The wheels of justice turn slowly, but they grind moderately fine.
adjournment at the last
hearing, I went to court this morning expecting only a new date for
the next hearing.
Exide was, once again, represented by the minion rather than the lawyer.
I asked if the lawyer would turn up at all, and was told that he was "on
the way" (as always). My case was passed over, to wait for the lawyer's
arrival. When I was called again, he still hadn't arrived. The (new)
president of the forum was not inclined to wait any further, and to
my surprise, he asked me to present my arguments.
I tried to state the case according to my notes, but the president was
obviously in a hurry, and kept asking me to skip things. But I could see
that the forum had read my case file and were familiar with the evidence
I had presented. So I skipped to my central assertion, which is that the
tests they had conducted on my batteries were misleading. The arguments
were admitted, and the president scolded the hapless minion (who was in
court only to say that the lawyer was on his way, and didn't know
anything about the case itself), and pointed out that the field
inspection reports from Exide themselves concluded that one battery was
faulty, and that it should have been replaced.
"We'll file an order in one week."
Update Exide's lawyer called me, saying that he reached late and
was told that I had agreed to the replacement of one battery. I said I
had done no such thing, and said we should wait for the order. Even if
the forum orders nothing more than to replace one battery (which would
mean I'd be stuck with one battery I couldn't use), it's fine with me.
I had a hearing today. Nothing happened, as usual. The bench were all on
vacation, so they gave everyone a date in October for the next hearing.
After the court's stern admonishment to Exide at the
last hearing, I really
thought today was the day when my arguments were finally going to be
heard (since Exide has made no attempt to settle in the meantime).
But I didn't expect today's strategy. The lawyer sent his minion to say
that he was "on his way", so my case was passed over. Then I was called
again at the end, when he had still not arrived. I requested the bench
to hear my arguments, but they said it wasn't possible today (apparently
because only two judges were there, and the panel's composition would be
changing again). So they gave me a date one month later, and I
left… and two minutes later, the Exide lawyer walked in. But even though
I saw him and turned back, the two judges were already getting ready to
leave, and weren't inclined to tarry.
Exide's lawyer, who had asked for an extra two weeks at the
today asked for another three weeks because the Exide head office
in Kolkata has not yet approved my offer for settlement.
The forum members took a dim view of this delay, and grilled him a bit,
upon which he promptly changed his story and claimed that my offer was
unreasonable, so he didn't know yet if it was possible to settle or not.
They finally agreed to give him a last chance at reaching a settlement.
Really final hearing in April.
In my last hearing at the
consumer forum, I was asked to present oral arguments again today. The
Exide chap also asked me for my phone number so that the lawyer could
discuss a settlement. He never called.
I wondered if they'd try to spring it on me in court today, and that's
exactly what they did. Their lawyer (the same one who wrote the response
to my complaint) waited until the last possible moment to ask me what it
would take to settle, so that when my case came up for hearing, he could
say he wanted to discuss a settlement, and I would be unprepared.
I protested to the bench that it was a delaying tactic, but that made me
look unreasonable (just as he wanted, I'm sure). I eventually did agree
to another hearing in two weeks to see if we can reach a settlement.
When he asked me what I wanted, I referred him to my complaint, which he
dismissed as being
always exaggerated. I said I wanted all three
batteries replaced, plus compensation amounting to a bit less than what
I had originally asked for. I also said I was very offended by what they
had said about me in their response (
unclean hands etc.), and he
just a part of litigation.
Anyway, he went off saying he would try to
bring some harmony
between Exide and me. Meanwhile, I will prepare my oral arguments again,
based on what I learned from listening to a somewhat disorganised lawyer
presenting hers in court today. I learned a lot about what not to do,
and what the forum members look for.
I went to the consumer forum today, expecting nothing more than the last
rites for my case, considering the
notice I received. But
when I was called up, the president of the forum listed the case for
arguments (i.e. to be handled right at the end). I mentioned the notice,
but they said that since the bench had changed, the matter would have to
be heard again. (The president was the one who was present when I first
appeared, and not the one who admitted my arguments. The other two
members were the same.)
When I was finally called up again, the Exide guy appeared once again to
say that their lawyer was unable to appear, and asked for another month.
I protested that the said lawyer had not appeared for four months, but
they scheduled oral arguments for a month later. No problem, it gives
me some time to prepare.
As I was leaving, the Exide guy ran after me and asked for my phone
Why?, I asked.
Our lawyer asked me to get it. He
wants to discuss a settlement.
Oh, does he indeed?
At my last appearance
before the district consumer forum, my oral arguments were admitted
and I was told to expect a judgement by registered post (I called up a
few days later to find out how long it might take—a month or more).
Yesterday, I received the following:
With reference to your complaint, dated … you are hereby
informed/directed as under:
i) That the complaint is not maintainable before this Forum.
ii) To appear before this Forum on 27/1/12 11.00 a.m. to complete the
formalities / to reply to some querries [sic].
iii) Your complaint has been forwarded to Distt. Forum 12/12/11 for
further necessary action.
I don't understand how (ii) and (iii) can go hand-in-hand, or what
further action may be necessary, but the "not maintainable" part is
Perhaps I will be told the rationale on the 27th.
My date for oral arguments in the
case against Exide was
the 10th of November (yesterday), which was a national holiday. I called
the consumer forum to find the revised date, and they asked me to appear
Exide was represented by the same chap, with
the same story: their
lawyer was ill and could not attend. I had expected them to try to file
written arguments, but they didn't have any. Fortunately, the two judges
present were not inclined to postpone matters further. They asked me to
state my case, which I did; and they put it up for judgement.
Now I have to wait for the judgement to reach me by post.