National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi

K S Chaudhari, Presiding Member and Dr B C Gupta, Member

Raj Bala - Petitioner

Versus

Managing Director, Skoda Auto India Pvt Ltd & Anr – Respondents

Revision Petition No. 4803 of 2012                                                    Decided on 23.10.2013

(From the order dated 26.09.2012 in First Appeal Nos. 824/2009 of the Delhi State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission)

Consumer Protection Act, 1986 – Sections 15, 17, 19 and 21 - Automobile – Manufacturing Defect – District Forum relying upon report of Surveyor, observed that there was no inherent manufacturing defect in vehicle but awarded sum of Rs. 30,000 to Complainant along with litigation cost of Rs. 10,000 for inconvenience caused to Complainant for taking vehicle to workshop frequently within a short period – State Commission after obtaining report from two experts came to same conclusion and dismissed appeal, relying upon statement of Respondents that they were ready to provide service of vehicle free of charge - No reasons to differ with orders passed by State Commission and District forum - Revision Petition dismissed.       (Paras 6 to 8)

Important Point

Amount of compensation must be reasonable.

Order

Dr B C Gupta, Member - This revision petition has been filed under section 21(b) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 against the impugned order dated 26.09.2012 passed by the Delhi State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (for short 'the State Commission') in FA No. 824/2009, “Smt Raj Bala versus Managing Director, Skoda Auto India Pvt Ltd & Anr.”, vide which appeal against the order dated 12.10.2009, passed by the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, in case number 119/2008, allowing the complaint in question, was dismissed.

2.Brief facts of the case are that the Petitioner purchased a Skoda Octavia Elegance car from the dealer Respondent No. 2, M/s. Sai Automobiles on 28.03.2008 and paid a price of Rs.11,97,269 as basic cost after raising loan from the State Bank of Hyderabad. The vehicle was got registered against registration No. DL13C 0940 in the name of the Petitioner, and insurance policy was obtained from M/s United India Insurance Co. with an annual premium of Rs. 38,345. It has been alleged that within a short period of 8 to 10 days of the purchase, the following manufacturing/ technical defects were found in the new vehicle:-

1.Tilting of vehicle towards left side, i.e., instability in steering wheel, making the driving very risky and unstable.

2.Gross bubbling in clutches of the vehicle thereby, making the driving of the car very uncomfortable and tiring.

3.The said defects were brought to the notice of the Dealer-Respondent No. 2 and the vehicle was taken to the workshop five times during the period 01.04.2008 to 25.05.2008, but the technical staff of Respondent No. 2 was not able to remove these defects. The vehicle was taken to M/s Continent Auto Services, another authorised workshop, who also could not rectify the fault. The job cards dated 11.04.2008 and 22.04.2008 indicated manufacturing defect in ‘Caster', which was not within the specified limit range and causing instability of steering wheel, which could result in serious accident on driving, as the vehicle tilted abnormally towards left side. The Complainant wrote many letters to Respondent No. 1 - manufacturer and Respondent No. 2 - dealer, requesting them to do the needful, but their grievance was not redressed. The vehicle has been lying with Respondent No. 2 since 25.5.2008 and the defects have not been removed. The Complainant then filed the consumer complaint in question seeking refund of Rs.12,86,316 paid as consideration for the said vehicle. The District Forum vide their order dated 12.10.2009 directed both the OPs to pay a compensation of Rs.30,000 along with litigation cost of Rs. 10,000 jointly and severally. The OPs were also directed to hand over the vehicle to the Complainant after extending the existing warranty for at least one year. The Complainant filed appeal before the State Commission against the order passed by the District Forum, which was dismissed vide impugned order. It is against this order that the Complainant has filed the present revision petition before us.

4.At the time of hearing before us, the learned counsel for the Petitioner stated that the vehicle started showing major problems, viz., tilting towards the left side, bubbling in clutches and instability in the steering wheel within one week of the purchase of the vehicle. The learned counsel has drawn our attention to the expert opinion given by an automobile engineer, Raman Kumar, in which it has been stated that the vehicle was bubbling towards left, when it was tested on road and it was very dangerous to drive the vehicle in that condition. Raman Kumar opined that there was some manufacturing defect in the vehicle due to which it was not running properly in spite of the fact that the alignment was proper. The said report was given by Raman Kumar after making joint inspection with another Engineer Lajpat Rai Munjal, whose opinion is, however, contrary to the opinion expressed by Raman Kumar. Learned counsel stated that the orders passed by the State Commission should be set aside and the entire cost of the car should be refunded along with interest @ 18% p.a. and rather, a criminal case should be instituted against the Respondents and expert for wrong deposition.

5.On the other hand, the learned counsel for the Respondents/OPs vehemently argued that they never refused to provide service to the Petitioner or to remove the defects in the vehicle. In fact, the vehicle did not suffer from any defect but still the Petitioner had abandoned the vehicle and it had been lying with the Respondents for a long time. The learned counsel stated that during the pendency of the appeal before the State Commission, they had appointed two experts to carry out joint inspection and to give a report. The report given by the automobile engineer, Lajpat Rai Munjal very clearly says that there was no defect in the vehicle. Even if the vehicle is pulling to the left slightly, it cannot be categorised as defect, rather it is just a ‘condition' and not a ‘defect'. The learned counsel has drawn our attention to another report given by Manbir Singh Suri on 25.04.2009, in which it has been stated that the car was in no danger of any accident, as no sideway drag in any direction was encountered while driving. That the steering was also stable and the wheels were fully aligned. It has been categorically stated in the said report that the car does not suffer from any manufacturing defect, excessive tyre wear or steering vibration. Even the report given by engineer Raman Kumar has stated that the alignment of wheels was proper before and after the road test. The learned counsel further stated that the District Forum had reached the right conclusion that the claim of the Complainant regarding any inherent manufacturing defect in the vehicle was not justified. They awarded a compensation of Rs.30,000 for the inconvenience caused to the Complainant in bringing the vehicle to the workshop for repairs a number of times.

6.The learned counsel has cited a number of rulings given by the Hon'ble Supreme Court and the National Commission in support of his arguments. It has been observed by the National Commission in Premanchal Motors versus Ramdass & Anr that the abandonment of a new vehicle soon after its purchase or after repairs, at the premises of the manufacturer or the dealer concerned was not a prudent conduct on the part of the consumer. In Maruti Udyog Limited versus Hasmukh Lakshmichand and Anr, the National Commission observed that the manufacturing defect is a fundamental basic defect and to prove such a defect, opinion of expert is necessary. The onus to prove that there was manufacturing defect was on the Complainant as observed by the National Commission in Classic Automobiles vs. Lila Nand Mishra & Anr. In Maruti Udyog Limited vs. Casino Dias, it was observed by the National Commission that consumers cannot throw their weight around and be adamant to decide on their own that there is manufacturing defect in the vehicle without any supporting evidence or justification. The learned counsel argued that in the present case, there was no evidence of any manufacturing defect.

7.We have examined the entire material on record and given a thoughtful consideration to the arguments advanced before us. The District forum relying upon the report of Manbir Singh Suri, Surveyor, observed that there was no inherent manufacturing defect in the vehicle. They, however, awarded a sum of Rs. 30,000 to the Complainant, along with litigation cost of Rs. 10,000 for the inconvenience caused to the Complainant. The State Commission after obtaining report from two experts came to the same conclusion and dismissed appeal, relying upon the statement of the Respondents that they were ready to provide service of the vehicle in question free of charge, if taken to the workshop.

8.Based on the material on record and relying upon the reports of experts taken on record, it is made out that there is no manufacturing defect in the vehicle, which may necessitate its replacement or refund of the value of the vehicle to the Complainant. The District Forum, vide their order, have already allowed a sum of Rs. 40.000 to the Complainant and also directed the Respondents to extend the warranty of the vehicle by at least one year. The said order was not challenged by the Respondents before any higher authority. The State Commission have also endorsed the order of the District Forum. We, therefore, find no reasons to differ with the orders passed by the State Commission and the District Forum. The revision petition in question is, therefore, ordered to be dismissed and the Respondents are directed to take necessary action as ordered by the District Forum in their order dated 12.10.2009. There shall be no order as to costs.

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