In what will help speed up decisions in consumer cases, Supreme Court has ruled that a party will not get more than 45 days for replying to a complaint in a consumer forum. The court said this period cannot be extended under any circumstances. Underlining that Consumer Protection Act, 1986, aims at providing expeditious relief to consumers against unfair trade practices and deficiency in services, a three-judge bench led by Justice Anil R Dave held that no party shall henceforth be given more than 45 days to adduce explanation to a complaint. If a party fails to do so, the right to submit a written statement shall be closed and the case may be decided straightaway in the complainant’s favour. Interpreting Section 13 (2) (a) of the Act, the bench said that this provision had to be given a strict interpretation in view of the legislative mandate, which wanted a speedy disposal of these cases, preferably within six months. On receiving the complaint, the court said, the opposite party is required to be given notice directing him to give his version within 30 days. This time can be extended by another 15 days. This extension may be granted by a District Forum or a State or National Consumer Commission

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