The Advisory Boar

By Abhijit Menon-Sen <>

Oral arguments adjourned

Today's hearing at the district consumer forum in my complaint against Exide was for oral arguments. Unfortunately, only one judge out of three showed up, and no quorum was possible while hearing arguments, so they decided to adjourn all arguments to early November.

(Exide didn't show up to today's hearing, at least not by the time I left. So they don't know the date of the next hearing.)

Written arguments in Consumer Court

Exide and I were to file written arguments in today's hearing. I filed mine (which was all of two pages long), but Exide sent someone to say that their lawyer was ill and to ask for an extension. This request was rejected without fuss, and the next hearing was set for oral arguments (after which only the judgement remains).

It wouldn't surprise me if Exide tried to file arguments at the next hearing (just as they filed their evidence late), but if so, I will object to their tardiness and repeated failure to comply with court procedure.

Another delayed hearing

I wrote about my Consumer Court hearing on 2011-04-18, at which I filed my response to Exide. The next hearing was on 2011-05-19, but I forgot to mention it here. Exide was supposed to file their evidence, but they did not do so, and thus lost their opportunity to do so. The next hearing was set for today, for "arguments".

I asked a lawyer friend, who said it probably meant oral arguments; so I prepared accordingly. But, after sitting through forty-odd cases, I was asked to submit written arguments. But someone from Exide (the affable but largely clueless chap who has appeared before) was there, trying to file the evidence they failed to at the last hearing. I was asked if I had any objections, and said no. The evidence was duly accepted. Not surprisingly, it's just a rehash of their earlier response, and says nothing new.

Now I have a month to prepare a written argument.

The return to Consumer Court

At my last hearing, where I filed my evidence and collected Exide's response, I was asked to file a response on the 2nd of March. As it happened, that was a holiday, and the court was closed. I called up the office the next morning, and was eventually told to appear on 18th April instead.

I showed up today, and found myself #1 on the cause list. When I was called up, a lawyer from Exide (not the guy who wrote the response, but someone on his behalf) appeared as well. I filed my response and gave him a copy. The next hearing is a month later. Exide will file their evidence and give me a copy.

I wonder how many more two-minute appearances are in store.

Consumer Court: progress at last!

I was #20 in a very long cause list at the District Consumer Forum this morning. In my previous appearance, I was asked to file evidence ex parte because no opposing parties appeared in court despite repeated announcements.

Digression: filing evidence

It took me a while to understand how to file evidence. I asked in the office at the Consumer Forum, but was told only to go to Karkardooma District Court, where "someone would help me". I went and stopped the first lawyer I saw (black coat, white shirt), and he was kind enough to look over my complaint and tell me exactly what I needed to do: compose an affidavit that restates my complaint as a deposition, and have it attested by an Oath Commissioner (and not just a Notary Public).

I found several Oath Commissioners sitting in a hallway, and one of them pointed me to a "computer guy" who would print out my affidavit for him to attest. I had my complaint on a USB stick, and it took only half an hour or so (after the many lawyers ahead of me had finished their work) to cut-and-paste the details of my complaint into a previous filing. I paid INR100 to the computer guy (INR15/page for not-quite-7 pages), and INR10 to the Oath Commissioner.

I then prepared three complete sets of the affidavit with all the evidence (which were "annexures" in the original complaint, but turned into "exhibits" at this stage).

Exide's response

When I was called to appear today, someone from Exide was present. As I had suspected might happen, it turns out that Exide's counsel did appear in court the last time, after I had already left. They filed a response to my complaint, of which I received a copy only today.

The response begins:

The instant Complaint is a gross abuse of the process of law and has been filed by the alleged Complainant with the sole purpose of harassing and pressurizing the Answering Respondent to submit to its unreasonable and mischievous demands. The instant Complaint is based on false, frivolous and baseless facts solely to suit the illegal designs of the alleged Complainant.

It continues on for a long time in the same vein, alleging repeatedly that I have "unclean hands", and making "vehement" and "categorical" denials of everything in my complaint (including a couple of facts of record).

I have been asked to file a rejoinder at the beginning of March. I shall think about how to proceed.

Free Binayak Sen!

Today we attended a demonstration at Jantar Mantar to protest against the conviction of Dr. Binayak Sen by the Raipur Sessions court on trumped-up charges of sedition. Despite a complete lack of evidence and clear signs of police misconduct in his arrest, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. The verdict brings into sharp focus the sorry state of the government in Chhatisgarh.

One of the signs at the protest: "Kangaroo court in a Banana republic"

Slow progress at the Consumer Forum

Today was my fourth appearance before the District Consumer Forum. I expected Exide to respond to my complaint, since they sent someone to collect a copy a month ago, but they weren't there. The judge (the lady who had initially accepted my filing) said she would hear my evidence ex parte at the next hearing in early January. If it's compelling enough, I guess a default judgement will be issued in my favour, and Exide will proceed to ignore that as well.

I usually read a book while waiting for my case to be called, but watching the proceedings can be quite entertaining. Some lawyers argue at length for the reduction of symbolic fines, with no success. Others come prepared to rant and rave about injustice to their clients, but stutter and stumble when questioned about the facts of the case. One case was attended only by two people from the same opposing party. Every once in a while, people are reprimanded for talking in the courtroom.

And while the case drags on, the UPS batteries are now completely dead, and we have been forced to order three (slightly cheaper) 42AH batteries to replace them.

Another brief visit to the Consumer Forum

After my farcical last appearance before the District Consumer Forum, I wasn't expecting much from today's hearing. To my surprise, however, someone from Exide (an ordinary bloke, not a lawyer) was present today. The (lone) presiding Forum member asked for our names, noted our appearance in the file, gave the Exide guy a copy of the complaint (it turns out that the notification sent by the DCF is only a summons to collect a copy of the complaint), and told us to come back a month later. I didn't need to do anything at all.

I'll have to wait until the end of November (at least) to find out how Exide will respond to my complaint. At this rate, I will need to buy new batteries long before the court decides whether Exide should replace the old ones or not.

A brief visit to the Consumer Forum

I was scheduled to appear before the District Consumer Forum today, and was curious to see what defence Exide would mount, if any. When my case was announced, I went up to the bench and identified myself. It turned out that the opposing parties (Exide, and the dealer I bought the batteries from) had not even been notified about the case! Their copies of the paperwork were still sitting in the file.

Blah. Next appearance: end of October.

Off we go to Consumer court

After our unpleasant experience with trying to have a faulty Exide battery replaced under warranty, Hassath and I didn't want to let the matter slide, and decided to approach the consumer court.

Under the Consumer Protection Act of 1986, a number of quasi-judicial bodies empowered to deal with consumer grievances have been set up at the district and state level, under an apex body in Delhi called the National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission; in this case, the East Delhi District Consumer Forum was the most appropriate forum for our complaint.

We spoke to someone at the DCF on the phone, and were told to bring two copies of our petition to them the next day. We spent a couple of hours preparing the petition (following an example on the NCDRC web site) and assembling a paper trail to establish our case (warranty cards, reports of the inspection, email correspondence). We stopped by the Post Office to get a blank Postal Order for INR 100 (the filing fee), and submitted all of this documentation to the (very pleasant) officer at the DCF the next afternoon.

He asked us to pick a date for the initial filing, and we decided on the tenth of August—which happened to be when the warranty of our batteries expired. We were told to appear in court at 10:30 on that morning, for the case to be brought before the Forum and admitted (or thrown out).

We went to court this morning, waited around for a while, and were quite surprised to hear my name called first (the invoice for the purchase of the batteries was in my name, so it was my name on the petition). Two of the Forum's three judges in attendance, and they were handling cases in parallel. I was called by the (stern-looking, but very kind) lady judge, and asked to explain the case. She listened to me, reviewed the petition briefly, and told me to add the battery vendor as an opposing party in the case (our petition named only Exide). Fortunately, I had a complete extra set of all the documentation with me, and she allowed me to just scribble an extra name and address on all three copies.

In the end, she assigned a date one month later, and ordered notices to be sent to the two opposing parties. Now we have to turn up in court on the new date, and we'll see what Exide does by way of opposition.