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JUDGEMENTS                                      CIMA NO. 334/1997                                       Back to Index

 HIGH COURT OF JAMMU AND KASHMIR AT SRINAGAR
CIMA NO. 334/1997

                                                                                                Date of decision 27th September, 2000.

              Indian Airlines Corporation Odeon Building, Delhi Versus Farooq Ahmad Jan New S/O Abdul Kabir Jan and four others.  C/O "Habsun",  Residency Road, Srinagar.through its Chairman,
Coram:
The Hon'ble Dr. Justice B.P. SARAF, CHIEF JUSTICE
The Hon'ble Mr. Justice SYEDBASHIR-UD-DIN,JUDGE

Whether approved for reporting? Yes
For the Appellants : Mr. B. A. Bashir, Advocate.  For the Respondent : Mr. Hakim Sami Yaqoob, Advocate.

JUDGEMENT AND ORDER

PER DR. JUSTICE B.P. SARAF, CHIEF JUSTICE (ORAL):

This is an appeal from order dated 5th August, 1997 of the J&K State Consumers Protection Commission ("State Commission") by which the State Commission awarded a sum of Rs.60,000/- in favour of the respondent on account of loss of baggage containing Video Camera, Cordless Telephone Instrument and some articles of day to day use and a sum of Rs.5,000 /- on account of expenses for travel and costs of litigation.

2. This appeal was admitted by this Court on 22nd September, 1997. There was an interim application of the appellants for stay of the operation of the impugned order. On that application, it was directed that the impugned order shall remain stayed on condition that the appellants pay Rs.10,000/- to the respondent within a period of two months from the date of the order subject to the ultimate decision of the case. The appellants complied with the above order. When this appeal came up for hearing, learned counsel for the respondent, Mr. Hakim Sami Yaqoob, raised a preliminary objection in regard to the maintainability of this appeal. He invited our attention to the Jammu and Kashmir Consumer Protection (Amendment) Act, 1997 (Act No. XIX of 1997) (hereinafter referred to the "Amendment Act"), by which, with effect from 2nd June, 1997, a new proviso has been added to section 17, as third proviso, which provides that no appeal shall lie unless the memorandum of appeal is accompanied by a certificate issued by the Chairman, State Commission to the effect that the appellant has deposited 25% of the amount payable under the order. Learned counsel submits that the present appeal having been filed after the coming into force of the above amendment without complying with the mandatory requirement of the newly inserted third proviso, is liable to be dismissed as not maintainable. Learned counsel states that the present appeal was filed on 4th September, 1997, i.e. after the coming into force of the aforesaid amendment. He submits that in view of the above amendment, which was applicable on the date the appeal was filed, it was obligatory on the part of the appellants to deposit 25% of the amount payable under the impugned order with the State Commission and to obtain a certificate from the Chairman of the State Commission to that effect and to annex the same with the memo of appeal. He submits that this is a mandatory requirement which is evident from the expression "no appeal shall lie unless memo of appeal is accompanied by a certificate issued by the Chairman of the State Commission to the effect that the appellant has deposited 25% of the amount payable under the order" appearing in the newly inserted third proviso to section 17 of the Act. The learned counsel for the respondent, therefore, submits that the present appeal is liable to be dismissed on that count itself.

3. Mr. B.A. Bashir, learned counsel for the appellants, on the other hand, submits that as the appellants were not aware of the amendment, the appeal was filed without complying the third proviso to section 17 of the Act, which was inserted by the Amendment Act of 1997 with effect from 2nd June, 1997. He submits that as soon as this amendment was brought to the notice of this Court on 27th September, 1997 and objection raised about the maintainability of the appeal, this Court issued direction to the appellants to comply with the requirements of the newly inserted third proviso to section 17 of the Act. In compliance to the above direction, the appellants deposited in the Court a sum of Rs.6,250/- on 17-8-1998 which, according to him, was the only amount required to be deposited in view of the payment of a sum of Rs.10,000/- to the respondent in compliance of the earlier order of this Court dated 22-09-1997. According to Mr. Bashir, in these peculiar facts and circumstances of the case, deposit of the above amount should be construed as sufficient compliance of the requirement of the third proviso to section 17 of the Act. He further submits that this appeal would be maintainable even if the deposit is made subsequent to the filing of the appeal. In support of this contention he relies on the decision of the Supreme Court in Commissioner of Income-tax v. M/s Filmistan Ltd. AIR 1961 SC 1134.

4. In reply, the learned counsel for the respondent, Mr. Hakim Sami Yaqoob, submits that the appellants have not complied with the requirements of the third proviso even till today because the requirement is to deposit 25% of the amount payable under the order appealed against with the State Commission and to furnish a certificate from the Chairman of the State Commission to that effect to the High Court, whereas the appellants have deposited a sum of Rs. 6250/- in this Court, which amount again is less than 25 % of the amount payable under the order by Rs. 10,000/-. He further submits that the amount of Rs.10,000/- which was paid by the appellants to the respondent in compliance of the condition imposed by this Court for stay of the impugned order in the interim application of the appellants cannot be treated as a part of the deposit contemplated by the third proviso to section 17. He, therefore, submits that the appeal got admitted by this Court erroneously without noticing the mandatory requirement of pre-deposit of 25% of the amount payable under the order with the State Commission. According to him, the present appeal is not maintainable even today and the same is liable to be dismissed accordingly.

5. We have given our careful consideration to the rival submissions and perused the original proviso to section 17 as also the three new provisos, which have been substituted in its place. Originally, section 17 of the Act, which provides for appeal to the High Court from any order of the State Commission, read as follows:

"17.- Appeals. Any person aggrieved by any order by the State Commission in exercise of its powers conferred by sub-clause (i) of clause (a) of section 15 may prefer an appeal against such order to the High Court within a period of thirty days from the date of the order in such form and manner as may be prescribed:

Provided that the High Court may entertain an appeal after the expiry of the said period of thirty days if it is satisfied that there was sufficient cause for not filing it within that period."

The above proviso to section 17 was substituted by the Amendment Act of 1997 with effect from 2nd June, 1997 by the following three provisos:

"Provided that such appeal shall be heard by not less than two Judges of the High Court;

Provided further that the High Court may entertain an appeal after the expiry of the said period of thirty days if it is satisfied that there was sufficient cause for not filing it within that period;

Provided also that no appeal shall lie unless the memorandum of appeal is accompanied by a certificate issued by the Chairman, State Commission to the effect that the appellant has deposited 25% of the amount payable under the order."


6. From a plain reading of the above newly inserted third proviso, it is clear that it seeks to lay down a new condition on the right of appeal from an order of the State Commission to the High Court. It provides that no appeal shall lie unless the memorandum of appeal is accompanied by a certificate issued by the Chairman, State Commission to the effect that the appellant has deposited 25% of the amount payable under the order. This provision came into force with effect from 2nd June,1997. If this proviso is applicable, the first question that would arise for consideration is what is the true meaning of expression "no appeal shall lie". Will it mean that no memorandum of appeal can be presented or that the appeal will not be held to be properly filed until the requirement of that proviso is complied with?

7. Before we proceed to examine this question, it is expedient to take note of certain material dates. The complaint in the present case was instituted in the State Commission on 27th July, 1996, much before the coming into force of the Amendment Act and the third proviso to section 17. The State Commission passed its order on 5th August, 1997. The present appeal was filed on 4th September, 1997. The period of filing of appeal is 30 days. This appeal was, therefore, treated by the registry as filed within time. It was also admitted by the Court without asking for any pre-deposit as contemplated by the third proviso to section 17 of the Act. No objection was taken by the respondent to the admission of the appeal without complying with the requirement of pre-deposit as contemplated by the third proviso to section 17 of the Act. Thereafter, the appeal was also listed for hearing from time to time but the hearing could not take place for one reason or the other. The appeal was again on board for hearing 27th July,1998 . From the order passed by this Court on that day, it appears that the attention of the Court was drawn by the respondent to the newly inserted third proviso to section 17 of the Act and non-compliance thereof by the appellants . The order reads as follows :

"To enable Shri B. A. Bashir to take steps in this case in accordance with Proviso 3 to Section 17 (Amended) of J & K Sate Consumers Protection Act, 1997, matter is adjourned.

List after eight weeks."

As stated earlier, the appellants deposited a sum of Rs.6,250/- in the purported compliance of the requirement of the third proviso to section 17.

8. On these facts, few important questions of law arise. First, whether an appeal filed by the appellants without complying with the requirements of the third proviso to section 17 of the Act was maintainable. Second, when the appeal can be said to have been filed in accordance with law? Can it be said to have been filed on the date it was filed in the High Court even without the requisite certificate contemplated by the third proviso to section 17 as evidence of the fulfilment of the requirement of pre-deposit or it can be said to have been filed on the date when the requirement of pre-deposit was complied with ? Secondly, whether the deposit of Rs.6,250/- in this Court in the present case is sufficient compliance with the requirement of third proviso to section 17 because 25% of the amount payable under the order was Rs.16,250/-. The amount of Rs.10,000/- was paid to the respondent subject to the outcome of the appeal pursuant to the direction in the interim application of the appellants for stay of the operation of the order and not as a pre-condition for admission of the appeal. Admittedly, the appeal was admitted without any condition of pre-deposit. This amount of Rs. 10,000/- was directed to be paid only as a condition for stay of the impugned order. The question that would arise for consideration is whether in such circumstances , the appellants were required to deposit Rs.16,500/- or Rs. 6,500/- which they have done in the instant case.

9. So far as the true meaning of the expression "no appeal shall lie" is concerned, we find that it is no more res integra in view of the decision of the Supreme Court in Commissioner of Income-tax v. M/s Filmistan Ltd. AIR 1961 SC 1134. In that case, the expression "no appeal shall lie" appearing in the proviso to section 30 (1) of the Indian Income-tax Act, 1922 came up for consideration before the Supreme Court. The relevant proviso to section 30 of the Indian Income-tax Act read as follows:

 

"Provided that no appeal shall lie against an order under sub-section (1) of section 46 unless the tax has been paid."

The controversy before the Supreme Court revolved round the words "no appeal shall lie". The contention before the Supreme Court was that these words mean that there is no right to appeal till the tax is paid and, therefore, if the tax has not been paid the memorandum of appeal cannot be filed and if filed it is merely a waste paper. The Supreme Court repelled this contention and held:

"…[I]n our opinion, the meaning of the words "no appeal shall lie" in the proviso is not that no memorandum of appeal can be presented. All that it means is that the appeal will not be held to be properly filed until the tax has been paid."

The Supreme Court further held that if the tax is paid after the expiry of the period of limitation, the appeal will be taken to have been filed on the date when the tax is paid even though the memorandum of appeal was presented earlier and within the period of limitation.

The Supreme Court explained the true legal position in this regard with the help of the following illustration:

"…[I]f, for instance, the memorandum of appeal is filed on the 20th day, i.e., 10 days before the period of limitation expires and the tax is paid within the rest of the 10 days, the appeal will be a proper appeal; it will be within time and no question of limitation will arise but if the tax is paid after the period of limitation has expired, it will be taken to have been filed on the date when the tax is paid even though the memorandum of appeal was presented earlier and within the period of limitation."

The Supreme Court held that the question then will have to be decided whether there was sufficient cause for condonation of delay and what was exactly the delay.

10. It is clear from the above decision of the Supreme Court that if any amount is required to be deposited as a pre-condition for the maintainability of the appeal, the appeal will be taken to have been filed on the date the amount tax is deposited even though the memorandum of appeal was presented earlier and within the period of limitation. The material date in the present case, therefore, is the date the amount is deposited in terms of the third proviso to section 17. Admittedly, no deposit was made within the period of limitation. The deposit of Rs. 6,250/-, which too, according to the respondent, strictly speaking, is no compliance of the third proviso to section 17, was also made much after the expiry of the period of limitation, though the memorandum of appeal was presented within time. That being so, if the newly inserted third proviso applies, in any event, the appeal on the face of it is barred by limitation by about an year.

11. Two questions arise for consideration. First, whether the deposit of a sum of 6,250/- in this Court and payment of Rs. 10,000/- to the respondent, the aggregate of which comes to 25% of amount payable under the order of the State Commission, can be construed as sufficient compliance of the requirement of the third proviso to section 17 of the Act, as amended. If the answer to the first question is in the affirmative, the deposit having been about one year after the expiry of the period of limitation for filing the appeal, the second question that would arise is whether there was sufficient cause for the delay in filing the appeal. But before we take up these two questions for consideration, the basic question that requires consideration and determination is whether the third proviso to section 17, which was inserted with effect from 2nd June, 1997, has any application to the present case. In other words, whether the right of appeal which was available at the time when the complaint was filed before the State Commission or the right of appeal with the rider added by the amendment Act, which was applicable on the day the order under appeal was passed or on the day the appeal was filed, would apply. If the pre-amendment section 17 applies, the two questions framed above would become academic for the purposes of the present case.

12. Law is well settled that right of appeal is not merely a matter of procedure. It is a matter of substantive right. This right of appeal from the decision of an inferior tribunal to a superior tribunal becomes vested in a party when proceedings are first initiated in, and before a decision is given by the inferior court. A pre-existing right of appeal is not destroyed by an amendment if the amendment is not made retrospective by express words or necessary intendment. The fact that the pre-existing right of appeal continues to exist, in its turn, necessarily imply that the old law which created that right of appeal must also exist to support the continuation of that right. As the old law continues to exist for the purpose of supporting the pre-existing right of appeal that old law must govern the exercise and enforcement of that right of appeal and there can be no question of the amended provision preventing the exercise of that right. A provision which is calculated to deprive a party of the unfettered right of appeal cannot be regarded as a mere alteration of procedure. For the purposes of the accrual of the right of appeal the critical and relevant date is the date of initiation of the proceedings and not the decision itself.

13. In Hoosein Kasam Dada (India) Ltd. v.. State of Madhya Pradesh AIR 1953 SC 221, the Supreme Court reiterated this principle and said that:

"….[T]hat a right of appeal is not merely a matter of procedure. It is a matter of substantive right. This right of appeal from the decision of an inferior tribunal to a superior tribunal becomes vested in a party when proceedings are first initiated in, and before a decision is given by, the inferior Court. In the language of Jenkins C. J., in Nana v Sheku (B)(supra) [32 Bom. 337], to disturb an existing right of appeal is not a mere alteration in procedure. Such a vested right cannot be taken away except by express enactment or necessary intendment. An intention to interfere with or to impair or imperil such a vested right cannot be presumed unless such intention be clearly manifested by express words or necessary implication."

 

14. In the above case, under the proviso to section 22(1) of C .P. and Berar Sales Tax Act, 1947 an aggrieved assessee had to pay such amount of tax as he might admit to be due from him as a pre-condition for entertainment of his appeal. The above proviso was amended. Under the amended proviso the appeal had to be accompanied by satisfactory proof of payment of tax in respect of which the appeal had been preferred. The question for consideration before the Supreme Court was whether the imposition of such a restriction by amendment of the section can affect the assessee's right of appeal from a decision in proceedings which commenced prior to such amendment and which right of appeal was free from such restriction under the section as it stood at the time of the commencement of the proceedings. The Supreme Court observed (at p 222):

"That the amendment has placed a substantial restriction on the assessee’s right of appeal cannot be disputed, for the amended section requires the payment of the entire assessed amount as a condition precedent to the admission of its appeal. The question is whether the imposition of such a restriction by amendment of the section can affect the assessee’s right of appeal from a decision in proceedings which commenced prior to such amendment and which right of appeal was free from such restriction under the section as it stood at the time of commencement of the proceedings."

 

The Supreme Court held:

"….[T]he pre-existing right of appeal is not destroyed by the amendment if the amendment is not made retrospective by express words or necessary intendment."

The Supreme Court further held:

"…The fact that the pre-existing right of appeal continues to exist must, in its turn, necessarily imply that the old law which created that right of appeal must also exist to support continuation of that right As the old law continues to exist for the purpose of supporting the pre-existing right of appeal that old law must govern the exercise and enforcement of that right of appeal and there can be no question of the amended provision preventing the exercise of that right. The argument that the authority has no option or jurisdiction to admit the appeal unless it be accompanied by the deposit of the assessed tax as required by the amended proviso to S.22(1) of the Act over looks the fact of existence of the old law for the purpose of supporting the pre-existing right and really amounts to begging the question. The new proviso is wholly inapplicable in such a situation and the jurisdiction of the authority has to be exercised under the old law which so continues to exist."

(Emphasis supplied)

In the facts and circumstances of that case, it was, therefore, held:

"….[W]e are of the opinion that the appellant’s appeal should not have been rejected on the ground that it was not accompanied by satisfactory proof of payment of assessed tax. As the appellant did not admit that any amount was due by it, it was under the section as it stood previously entitled to file its appeal without depositing any sum of money."

 

15. Identical controversy came up for consideration before a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in Garikapatti Veeraya v N. Subbiah Choudhury 1957 SCR 488. The Supreme Court considered a large number of authorities on the point and summed up the principles emerging therefrom as follows:

"(i) That the legal pursuit of a remedy, suit, appeal and second appeal are really but steps in a series of proceedings all connected by an intrinsic unity and are to be regarded as one legal proceeding.

(ii) The right of appeal is not a mere matter of procedure but is a substantive right.

(iii) The institution of suit carries with it the implication that all rights of appeal then in force are preserved to the parties thereto till the rest of the career of the suit.

(iv) The right of appeal is a vested right and such a right to enter the superior court accrues to the litigant and exists as on and from the date the lis commences and although it may be actually exercised when the adverse judgement is pronounced such right is to be governed by the law prevailing at the date of the institution of the suit or proceeding and not by the law that prevails at the date of its decision or at the date of the filing of the appeal.

(v) This vested right of appeal can be taken away only by a subsequent enactment, if it so provides expressly or by necessary intendment and not otherwise."

( Emphasis supplied)

16. Reference may also be made in this connection to a recent decision of the Supreme Court in Ramesh Singh v Cinta Devi JT 1996 (5) SC 543. In that case the question for consideration before the Supreme Court was:

"[D]oes a right of appeal accrue to a claimant under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939, hereinafter called the ‘old Act’, on the institution of a claim application in the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, notwithstanding its repeal by the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, hereinafter called ‘the new Act’?"

 

The Supreme Court held:

"In our view the point at issue stands squarely covered by three decisions of this Court reported in Hussain Kasim Dada v. State of Madhya Pradesh and others (1953 SCR 987 at 991), State of Bombay v Supreme General Films Exchange Ltd. (1960 (3) SCR 640) and Vithal Bhai Narang Bhai Patel v Commissioner of Sales Tax, M.P. & Nagpur (AIR 1967 SC 344). In all these decisions the view taken is that unless the New Act expressly or by necessary implication makes the provision applicable retrospectively, the right to appeal will crystalise in the appellant on the institution of the application in the Tribunal of first instance and that right of appeal would not be dislodged by the enactment of the New Act. In other words, the appellant would be entitled to file the appeal without being required to make the deposit under the proviso to section 173 of the New Act. The law, therefore, seems to be fairly well settled by the said three decisions of this Court."

 

17. It is clear from the above decisions of the Supreme Court that the right of appeal in the instant case got vested in the appellant the moment the complaint was filed before the State Commission on 27th July,1996, much before the Amendment Act and the newly inserted third proviso came into force and that right would not be dislodged by the amendment of section 17 of the Jammu and Kashmir Consumer Protection Act, 1987. The restriction imposed on the right of appeal would not be applicable in the present case. The right of appeal will be governed by the law as it stood at the time of the institution of the complaint before the State Commission and not by the law applicable on the date of the impugned order or the date of filing of the appeal. That being so, the appellant was entitled to file the appeal without making the deposit of 25% of the amount payable under the order of the State Commission, as required by the newly inserted third proviso to section 17 of the Act. In that view of the matter, in our opinion, the present appeal was rightly admitted by this Court without insisting on the compliance of the newly inserted third proviso to section 17 of the Act because the same was not applicable to the present case. It appears that the order of this Court dated 27th July, 1998, asking the appellant to comply with the requirement of third proviso of section 17 of the Act, came to be passed because of the failure of the parties to bring the true legal position to the notice of the Court. In view of the above conclusion of ours, all issues in regard to the non-compliance of the third proviso to section 17 and condonation of delay have become academic for the purposes of the present case. We, therefore, do not think it necessary to revert back to them.

18. Coming to the merits of the case, the facts of the case, briefly stated, are as follow. The respondent, Farooq Ahmad Jan, travelled by Indian Airlines flight from Delhi to Srinagar on 23rd June, 1996. He was carrying with him a hand bag containing a 'Canon" make video camera worth Rs.50,000/-, 'Soni' make cordless telephone instrument worth Rs.7,000/- and cloths and toiletries worth Rs.3,000/-. While booking his luggage, the respondent wanted to carry the handbag containing the camera, cordless telephone instrument etc. as hand baggage. He was not allowed to do so by the staff of the Indian Airlines Corporation at the Airport on the ground that the camera had battery in it. According to the respondent, his statement that the battery in the camera was in-built was not taken note of and he was asked to book the handbag along with his other luggage. The total baggage including the handbag was weighed and he was charged for 40 kilograms. He paid an amount of Rs.928/- for the extra baggage. According to the respondent, the Indian Airlines staff undertook to provide proper service and deliver the luggage including the handbag to him at the Srinagar Airport. At Srinagar Airport, the respondent found that the bag containing the video camera and the cordless telephone instrument was missing. He reported the matter to the Station Manager, Indian Airlines Limited, Airport, Srinagar, who assured him that the matter would be investigated and the missing handbag would be recovered. Before leaving the airport, the respondent obtained a report from the concerned official wherein the ticket number, date of travel and the carrier bag tag number were endorsed along with the report of the loss. The Indian Airlines officials, however, failed to trace the handbag and offered to compensate the respondent by paying Rs.10,000/-. The respondent refused to accept the same. On the other hand, aggrieved by the refusal of the respondent to pay the full compensation claimed by him for the loss caused to him due to non-delivery of the handbag by the Indian Airlines staff at Srinagar Airport, he filed a complaint before the J&K State Consumers Protection Commission on 27th July, 1996. The Indian Airlines Corporation, the respondents in the complaint, filed objections. There was no dispute about the travel of the respondent on the Indian Airlines flight on the day mentioned in the complaint along with the baggage including the handbag. It was, however, stated on behalf of the Indian Airlines that it was not the Indian Airlines Staff, but the security staff, which did not allow the respondent to carry the handbag as hand baggage on account of which he was required to book the same alongwith his other baggage. There was also no dispute about the payment of fare for the extra baggage. The main defence of the Indian Airlines Corporation was that there was no evidence that the complainant had purchased those goods in Delhi. The State Commission was not impressed by this defence and termed it as "very curious defence". The State Commission has stated in its order that complainant had produced Photostat copies of the relevant documents, including the purchase vouchers, which were compared and verified with the originals which were in the possession of the complainant. The State Commission was satisfied that the complainant had purchased the two items, i.e., video camera and cordless telephone instrument, which he was carrying in the handbag. The Commission also noted that there was no denial of Indian Airlines that he was not allowed to carry the handbag with him. The only plea taken by the Indian Airlines before the State Commission was that it was the security staff and not the Indian Airlines Staff, who did not allow the complainant to carry the hand baggage with him in the Indian Airlines. There was no dispute about the fact that the handbag, which was duly booked by the complainant, could not be delivered to him on his arrival at Srinagar Airport. The State Commission took note of the fact that no investigation had been made and no responsibility fixed for the missing baggage. The State Commission also took note of the fact that such incidents were not uncommon and, for the reasons set out in the order, refused to accept the defence of the Indian Airlines. The State Commission, therefore, allowed the complaint of the complainant and awarded him a sum of Rs.60,000/- being the cost of the baggage containing video camera, cordless telephone instrument and other articles and Rs. 5,000/- by way of costs to meet the travel expenditure and cost of litigation. Aggrieved by the above order, Indian Airlines are before us by way of this appeal.

19. Mr. B. A. Bashir, learned counsel for the appellants, submits that in the absence of the filing of the original documents for the purchase of the video camera, cordless telephone instrument, toiletries etc. and proof of their price, the State Commission was not justified in allowing the claim. He also took exception to the State Commission accepting the Photostat copies of the vouchers produced by the complainant. He had also serious objection to the grant of costs on account of expenses for travel and litigation in the facts and circumstances of this case. Learned counsel for the respondent, on the other hand, submits that it is not a case of relying on the Photostat copies of the vouchers. He has drawn our attention to that part of the order of the State Commission wherein it has been stated that the original vouchers were produced and Photostat copies were compared and found to be correct. The fact that instead of the originals, the Photostat copies were kept on record, according to the learned counsel, is not fatal to the order. We have considered the above submission of the learned counsel for the respondent. We find merit in the same. We do not think that the fact that the State Commission took on record the Photostat copies of the documents after comparing the same with the originals, which were produced before it by the party, is fatal to the order. There can be no dispute about the fact that the State Commission should follow the rules of procedure but while doing so it is not bound by the strict rigidities of the procedure. The Commission having compared the Photostat copies with the originals and having been satisfied about the genuineness of the same did not commit any illegality in not taking the originals on record and returning the same to the complainant. Otherwise also, we do not think that in a case of loss of any valuable item in transit, it is necessary for the complainant to produce the purchase memo to substantiate his claim for compensation on account of loss in transit. Purchase memo may be useful for establishing the quantum of loss caused on account of the loss of the article. But that can be also established by producing other evidence, such as catalogues from the suppliers or other evidence of the prevailing price thereof in the market. In the instant case, the complainant proved not only the price but also the ownership. On the facts and in the circumstances of the case, in our opinion, the State Commission in our opinion was justified accepting the same and allowing the claim of the complainant for damages.

20. It may be pertinent to observe that the Consumer Courts have been constituted by the Act to provide for better protection of the interests of the consumers and to provide them expeditious and speedy remedy. It is intended to protect the legitimate interests of the consumers of goods and services. The Consumers Disputes Redressal Agencies, established under section 7 of the Act, i.e., the Divisional Forum and the State Commission, are quasi-judicial authorities. They are not courts in the strict sense of the term. The Divisional Forum and the State Commission are deemed to be civil courts only for the purposes of section 195 and Chapter XVII of the Code of Criminal Procedure Smvt. 1989. They have got the same powers as are vested in a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure while trying a suit only in respect of certain matters, namely, summoning and enforcing the attendance of any defendant and witness and examining the witness on oath; discovery and production of any document or other material object producible as evidence; reception of evidence on affidavits; requisitioning of the report of the concerned analysis or test from the appropriate laboratory or from any other relevant source; issuing of any commission for the examination of any witness; and any other matter which may be prescribed. The proceedings before these forums are also not judicial proceedings in the strict sense of the term. The proceedings are deemed to be judicial only to the extent and for the purposes indicated in sub-section (5) of section 11 of the Act. These forums are not governed by the strict technicalities of the law. The procedure to be followed by both the Divisional Forum and the State Commission on receipt of the complaint has been laid down in section 11 of the Act. It may be expedient to set out sub-section (2) of section 11 of the Act which deals with the procedure to be followed by the Divisional Forum except in cases falling under sub-section (1) thereof. It reads:

"(2) The Divisional Forum shall, if the complaint received by it under section 10 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: -

    1. 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 Divisional Forum;
    2. where the opposite party on receipt of a copy of the complaint, referred to him under clause (a) denies or disputes the allegations contained in the complaint or omits or fails to take any action to represent his case within the time given by the Divisional Forum, the Divisional Forum shall proceed to settle the consumer dispute:-
    1. on the basis of evidence brought to its notice by the complainant and the opposite party, where the opposite party denies or disputes the allegations contained in the complaint, or
    2. On the basis of evidence brought to its notice by the complainant where the opposite party omits or fails to take any action to represent his case within the time given by the Forum."

21. By virtue of section 16 of the Act the same procedure has been made applicable to the disposal of disputes by the State Commission . Sub-section (3) of section 11 of the Act makes it clear that the only procedure to be followed by the Divisional Forum and the State Commission is the procedure laid down in sub-sections (1) and (2) of section 11 of the Act and if that procedure is followed in any proceedings, such proceedings cannot be called in question in any court on the ground that the principles of natural justice have not been complied with. In other words, the legislature itself has laid down the requirements of natural justice which have to be complied with by the Divisional Forum and the State Commission. It is clear from sub-sections (1) and (2) of section 11 of the Act that the Divisional Forum and the State Commission have to decide the consumer disputes on the basis of evidence brought to its notice by the complainant and the opposite party where the opposite party denies or disputes the allegations contained in the complaint, or on the basis of evidence brought to its notice by the complainant where the opposite party omits or fails to take any action to represent his case within the time given by the Forum. In proceedings before the Consumer forums mere preponderance of probabilities may constitute adequate basis of the decision. The theory of preponderance of possibilities suggests that a fact can be said to be proved when the court either believes that it exists or considers its existence so probable that a prudent man ought, under the circumstances of a particular case, to act upon the supposition that it exists. The belief regarding the existence of a fact may be founded on a balance of probabilities. A prudent man faced with conflicting probabilities concerning a fact will act on the supposition that it exists if on weighing the various probabilities he finds that the preponderance is in favour of existence of a particular fact. Within the wide range of probabilities, the court has often a difficult choice to make, but it is this choice which determines where the preponderance of probabilities lies. Preponderance of evidence, in fact, means that evidence which satisfies the conscience and carries conviction to an intelligent mind. The Forums constituted under the Act for redress of the grievances of the consumers are not fettered or bound by the technical rules of evidence contained in the Indian Evidence Act. The rigour of the rules of evidence contained in the Evidence Act is not applicable to proceedings before the consumer forums constituted under the Act. What is required is that they must conduct themselves in accordance with the principles of justice, equity and good conscience. They must follow the procedure laid down in section 11 of the Act. If that is done, such proceedings can not be called in question in any court on the ground that the principles of natural justice have not been complied with (sub-section (3) of section 11). The Act thus lays down the procedure which, keeping in view the summary nature of the proceedings before the forums, would amount to sufficient compliance with the requirements of the principles of natural justice. This interpretation is in consonance with the scheme and object of the Act which has been enacted to enable consumers to obtain redress through procedures that are expeditious, fair, inexpensive and accessible. Any other interpretation will frustrate the very purpose of the Act.

22. In the premises aforesaid, we do not find any merit in this appeal. There is no such infirmity in the impugned order of the State Commission which might justify interference of this Court in exercise of its appellate jurisdiction.

23. We, therefore, dismiss this appeal. However, in the facts and circumstances of the case, we make no order as to costs. This appeal is disposed of accordingly.