Mere proof of “unfair trade practice” is not enough for claim or award of relief unless causing of loss is also established. Punitive damages are awarded against a conscious wrong doing unrelated to the actual loss suffered. Such a claim has to be specially pleaded.
The question before court was to determine as to whether in the absence of any prayer made in the complaint and without evidence of any loss suffered, the award of punitive damages was permissible.
It was held that the Consumer Protection Act is a piece of social legislation to provide a forum to the consumers who are taken for a ride by suppliers of goods and services. The redress is provided to a consumer against any deficiency in service as well as against any loss or injury arising out of “unfair trade practice”. By later amendment, scope of a complaint can cover not only individual consumer but also consumers who are not identifiable conveniently. However, the complainant has to make an averment and make a claim. Section 12 of the Act permits not only a complaint by a consumer to whom goods are sold or delivered but also any recognised consumer association or one or more consumers on behalf of and for the benefit of all consumers but still, a case has to be made out and the affected party heard on such issue. Accordingly, in order to protect the interest of consumers, liberal and purposive interpretation has to be placed on the scheme of the Act avoiding hyper technical approach. However, at the same time, fair procedure is hall mark of every legal proceeding and an affected party is entitled to be put to notice of the claim with such affected party has to meet.
It was categorically observed and held that mere proof of “unfair trade practice” is not enough for claim or award of relief unless causing of loss is also established which in the present case was held as not established. In the complaint that was filed originally, there was no averment in the complaint about the suffering of punitive damages by the other consumers and further even in the appeal before Court, the appellant was not aware that any such claim is to be met by it. d. .
[General Motors (India) Pvt. Ltd. vs. Ashok Ramnik Lal Tolat & Anr.]