Mumbai's consumer forum imposes a fine of Rs 5,000 on a man over ‘false’ complaint

A suburban consumer disputes redressal forum, now called a commission, while dismissing a complaint has imposed compensatory cost of Rs. 5,000 on a complainant for making a false complaint, with the idea of curb such practices.

The Chembur resident had filed a complaint against Mahanagar Gas Limited in 2010 for levying “exorbitant” bills without reading the gas meter since 2009.

The judgment by the commission’s president Shubhada Tulankar passed last Thursday said it have found that there is no basis to file the complaint. “On the other hand the evidence depicts the complainant is not regular in paying bills and he is trying to take advantage of his own wrong for getting wrongful gain,” it said.

Further the body called the complaint “patently false and vexatious” and to curb such practice, it is imposing a compensatory cost on the complainant.

The complainant had claimed Rs. 15,000 for the exorbitant bills the company levied on him and Rs. 50,000 for mental harassment and financial loss to him, as well as claimed litigation cost.

Mahanagar Gas has opposed the complaint calling it ‘false’ and said the complaint is filed to harass the company and enjoy cooking gas at less price. It told the commission that the complainant Balkrushna Zende had not cleared the bills from 2009 and hence delayed payment charges had been levied. Further it said that the meter being inside the house, the customer’s co-operation is necessary in taking the reading. When its representatives had gone to his residence to take reading, many times the flat was closed, they informed the commission.

The consumer body stated in its order that while the complainant had claimed a sudden rise in bill amount after 2009, but he has not clarified specifically about which bill he has grievance with nor has he supported the allegation with evidence. Further it noted after perusing the bills that it is clear they are issued based on usage of consumer and negated the allegation of Zende that the bills were exorbitant and said that “by no stretch of imagination” they can be called so.

The commission also questioned why Zende had not made any email, letter correspondences or contacted the company’s customer care if he had the grievance that the meter reader was not visiting his residence. In the absence of such cogent evidence, the it said his contention that bills were issued without meter reading will not be accepted. The body also referred to a recent bill of February 2019 and said that that there is merit in the company’s version that complainant was in huge arrears of gas charges and as per terms agreed upon, he was liable to pay delayed payment charges.

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