Supreme Court Sets Precedent On Burden Of Proof In Consumer Complaint Cases

Supreme Court Sets Precedent On Burden Of Proof In Consumer Complaint Cases

The court while framing guidelines for the Quasi Judiciary held that the onus of proving that the person falls within the carve-out must necessarily rest on the service provider and not the complainant, dealing with the consumer cases.

Pranali LotlikarUpdated: Thursday, May 16, 2024, 03:15 PM IST
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The Supreme Court while deciding on a Special Leave Petition filed under the Civil Appeal, in a consumer complaint case, has maintained that orders passed shall always work on the general principle "one who pleads must prove", embodied under Evidence Act. The court while framing guidelines for the Quasi Judiciary held that the onus of proving that the person falls within the carve-out must necessarily rest on the service provider and not the complainant, dealing with the consumer cases.

The court while deciding in the matter, which had escalated to the top of the tribunal, and had then reached the apex court, held that onus of proving that the person falls within the carve out must necessarily rest on the service provider and not the complainant.

Anticipating the situation wherein the consumer forum would not be in a position to arrive at a proper decision while dealing the issue of "burden of proof", the court decided to provide some guidance on how issues of the case must be framed and the manner in which the evidence must be appreciated.

"There can hardly be any dispute that the onus of proving the fact that the person had bought goods/availed services for a consideration, rests on the complainant himself," the court said. "The carve out clause is invoked by the service providers to exclude the complainants from availing benefits under the Act. The onus of proving that the person falls within the carve out must necessarily rest on the service provider and not the complainant. This is in sync with the general principle of 'one who pleads must prove' (embodied under Evidence Act). Since it is always the service provider who pleads that the service was obtained for a commercial purpose, the onus of proving the same would have to be borne by it."

"It cannot be forgotten that the Consumer Protection Act is a consumer-friendly and beneficial legislation intended to address grievances of consumer. A negative burden cannot be placed on the complainant to show that the service available was not for a commercial purpose," it held. "Having held that the onusto prove that the service was obtained for a commercialpurpose is on the serviceprovider, we may clarify thestandard of proof that has tobe met in order to dischargethe onus."

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