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The Complainant has to discharge the initial burden of proof of deficiency under the Consumer Act

- Mansi Tekam

26th October 2021: A bench consisting of Justices Hemant Gupta and V Ramasubramanian of the Supreme Court, while setting aside an order of the apex consumer body- National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), said that the initial burden of proof of deficiency in service falls on the Complainant under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. The NCDRC issued an order against the Appellant SGS India Ltd, directing the company to pay Rs. 65.74 lakh with interest against which the Appellant Company approached the Supreme Court through an appeal. The Complainant Dolphin International Ltd. employed the respondent company for testing, inspecting, and certifying the quality and quantity of groundnut samples on various parameters obtained for exporting the same to Greece and the Netherlands. The Appellant examined the samples to be shipped to Greece and noted that the groundnuts were of two qualities- bold and java. On that basis, it issued the Inspection Certificate. At the time of consignment loading, the groundnut examined did not match the product specifications. The Complainant communicated to the Appellant that the groundnut's size was not similar to the specifications. Further inspection of the Netherlands's sample revealed the presence of aflatoxin as a result of mold. In respect of these two contentions, the Appellant did not provide any evidence to prove the contrary. Based on these facts, the Commission concluded that the Appellant Company was liable for gross negligence and deficiency in service. In the present case before the Supreme Court, the bench observed that the rule of evidence in civil proceedings states that the onus of proof lies on the person who would fail if the other side leads no evidence. The Complainant has not produced the best evidence to support the contentions it made, and therefore the initial burden of proof lies with the Complainant. There is no shift in the burden of proof on the Appellant, and therefore the Commission has transgressed the law. The Bench held that the Appellant company cannot be held liable for the allegations.


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