Is it possible to file a civil suit before the civil court and also a consumer complaint before the State Consumer Forum under Consumer Protection Act in the same matter and at the same time? Can these two proceedings be simultaneous?
Section 3 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, provides that the provisions of this Act shall be in addition to and not in derogation of the provisions of any other law for the time being in force.
In the case of State of Karnataka v. Vishwabharathi House Building Coop. Society, (2003) 2 SCC 412, a 3-judge bench of the Supreme Court has held as under:
“46. By reason of the provisions of Section 3 of the Act, it is evident that remedies provided thereunder are not in derogation of those provided under other laws. The said Act supplements and not supplants the jurisdiction of the civil courts or other statutory authorities.
“47. The said Act provides for a further safeguard to the effect that in the event a complaint involves complicated issues requiring recording of evidence of experts, the complainant would be at liberty to approach the civil court for appropriate relief. The right of the consumer to approach the civil court for necessary relief has, therefore, been provided under the Act itself.
“48. The provisions of the said Act are required to be interpreted as broadly as possible. It has jurisdiction to entertain a complaint despite the fact that other forums/courts would also have jurisdiction to adjudicate upon the lis. …”
In the above case, the Supreme Court further observed that:
“…Furthermore, primarily the jurisdiction of the forums/Commissions is to grant damages. In the event, a complainant feels that he will have a better and effective remedy in a civil court as he may have to seek for an order of injunction, he indisputably may file a suit in an appropriate civil court or may take recourse to some other remedies as provided for in other statutes.”
From the above, it should be clear that the Consumer Protection Act does not bar a civil suit in the same matter. The Supreme Court has affirmed the above legal position, and in fact, there are certain other judgments of the Supreme Court in this regard.
At the same time, duplicity of proceedings taking place simultaneously need to be avoided, if they are for exactly the same or similar relief. So, ultimately, the answer will depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case.
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