A 5-judge Bench of the Supreme Court of India reserves its verdict regarding the question of whether after 45 days the opposite party can file a reply under a Consumer Protection Act. As per Section 13(2) (a) of the Act the reply has to be filed in 30 days and an extended period of 15 days as granted by the consumer forum.

Section 13(2) (a) of the Act states that:

The District Forum shall under section 12 relates to goods in respect of which the procedure specified in sub-section (1) cannot be followed, or if the complaint relates to any services:

(a) refer a copy of such complaint to the opposite party directing him to give his version of the case within a period of thirty days or such extended period not exceeding fifteen days as may be granted by the District Forum.

A Bench comprises of the Justices Arun Mishra, MR Shah, Vineet Saran, Indira Banerjee and Ravindra Bhatt.

The petitioners contended that in the matter Topline Shoes vs. Corporation Bank, the Supreme Court decided that the reply filed by the opposite party after 45 days would not be rejected. They also state that such an extension of the time period as against what is stipulated would not cause any grave illegality.

Advocate Vikas Mehta appeared on behalf of the petitioners and said that the provisions of Order VIII Rule 1 will apply. The provision states that a written statement has to be filed within 30 days of service of the summons of the defendant. But as per the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Act, 2002 this period of 30 days has been extended to 90 days by incorporating a proviso to Rule 1.

Justice MR Shah states that if more time is given to the party to file the reply then it will hamper the speedy trial of a matter which was now an expansive right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

Mr. Mehta also asserted that the sections of the Consumer Protection Act should be interpreted neither too strictly nor too liberally. A balance has to be maintained because in the end the interest and justice of the consumer should not be at stake.

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