CA Shirish Thakkar

1. Attached herewith is the recent judgement of the supreme court  in the case of Pratibha Pratisthan & Ors. Vs Manager, Canara Bank & Ors., declaring that ” trust” are not  a person within the meaning of S. 2 (1) ( m) of the Consumer Protection Act and hence not eligible to complain  to the consumer forum for any of the deficiencies and malpractices of service providers.

2. A Public Trust engaged in a good cause are made to suffer for the deficiencies and malpractices of the service providers by such narrow interpretation. It is not an equitable and just interpretation. The definition in the act is “inclusive” and not exhaustive. It is unfortunate that such interpretation has come from the highest judicial forum.

3. On this issue I have come across following rulings :

  • In the case of Loknete Rajarambhau Patil Hospital Vs. Oriental Insurance (Appeal no.355/2009 to 554/2009,) the Maharashtra State Commission observed that the decision of NCDRC in the matter of Pratibha Pratishthan that “complaint by a trust under the consumer protection Act is not tenable is unfortunate and bad in law.”
  • In the matter of Karnataka Power Transmission corporation Vs. Ashok Iron Works Pvt. Ltd. (2009 ALL SCR 1004) the apex court held that the

“the provision of S.2 (1) (m) is not restrictive but the intention of the legislature is that they wanted to give extensive and enlarged meaning to such expression “person”. The Act is socio economic legislation”.

  • The above referred judgement of the supreme court in Karnataka Power corporation in para 18 states that “while defining “person’ S.2 (1) (m) cannot be held to be restrictive and confined to these four categories as it is not said in terms that “person” shall mean one or other of the things which are enumerated but that it shall ‘include’ them.” —- Para 20 states that the four categories by way of enumeration mentioned therein are indicative –”. It further holds that it would include artificial juristic person also.
  • In Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee, Amritsar vs. Som Nath Das & others (2000- 4 supreme court cases 146), the apex court while discussing the issue has held that endowments including Guru Granth sahib are “juristic” Person.
  • In fair Air Engineers Pvt. Ltd. vs. N.K. Modi (1996) 6 supreme court cases 385), the apex court holds that the Consumer protection Act intends to relieve the consumers of cumbersome arbitration or civil action under the provisions of Civil Procedure Code. “
  • In the matter of Abraham Memorial Education trust Vs. C. Suresh Babu (crl.OP nos.12630 and 12661 of 2012 decided on 7th2012 has examined at length and come to the conclusion that at charitable trust is an artificial judicial person. This judgement of madras High court was later on upheld by the apex court. The court has relied on several judgements of apex court in this connection.
  • It is also a matter of legal views upheld by the apex court that a “trust is an association of persons” and definition of the term Trust under the Indian Trust Act.

4. It appears that by this judgements, all other categories of persons are made eligible to resort to the remedy of approaching Consumer forum for any of the deficiencies and malpractices of service providers except the trust.

5. Since this is matter which concerns all public trusts, it is in their interest to consider the action to set this right – may  be by representation to concerned ministry or by way of PIL or any other way the legal team at your  end advises.

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