The article '8 Important Cases of Consumer Disputes' delves into eight pivotal legal cases that have played a crucial role in shaping consumer rights.

The article '8 Important Cases of Consumer Disputes' delves into eight pivotal legal cases that have played a crucial role in shaping consumer rights within India's legal framework governed by the Consumer Protection Act.

Click Here and Read about the History and Development of Consumer Protection Laws in India


The buying or hiring of goods & services is a vital facet of our daily lives, depending heavily on trust. Deteriorating this trust can outcome in various significances for consumers, extending from monetary loss to physical harm. The Consumer Protection Act, of 1986, is intended to punctually address such breaking of trust or negligence. To ease this, a hierarchy of 3 tribunals is established:

  • the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum (DCDRF),
  • the State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (SCDRC), and
  • the National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (NCDRC).

These tribunals have gained an understanding of the Consumer Protection Act, safeguarding a stable approach that reflects the needs of both consumers as well as service providers.

A "consumer" is any individual who purchases goods or uses services for individual consumption. This description includes all individuals except one acquiring such goods/ services for commercial/ resale purposes.

A complaint from consumers can be filed by:

  • an individual or group of consumers,
  • the Central or State Government,
  • any duly listed volunteer consumer association,
  • or the legal representative of the consumer.
  • For a consumer being a minor, the complaint can be made by their legal guardian/ parents.
Click Here to Take a closer look at the Judgment: National Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Harsolia Motors and Ors., (2023) | | Consumer Protection Act, 1986

Let’s discuss some relevant case laws of Consumer Dispute:

1. National Insurance Company Ltd. v. Hindustan Safety Glass Works Ltd. & Anr.[1]

In this case, the insurance company rejected compensation to the respondent for loss caused by heavy rain during a stated period. The refusal was grounded on a policy term stating that the company would not pay for losses or damages happening 12 months post the event. Disgruntled with this renunciation, the insured filed a complaint under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, with the National Commission.

The National Commission believed that the insured claim was valid, stating that the goods were protected at the time of the incident and the claim was duly filed the next day. It terminated all arguments stated by National Insurance and ordered the company to compensate for Rs. 21,05,803.89 with 9% interest per annum.

2. Manjeet Singh v. National Insurance Company Ltd. & Anr

In this case, the appellant took a 2nd hand truck by executing a Hire Purchase agreement, with the vehicle insured by the respondent’s insurance company. Once while driving, the appellant stopped the truck at the demand of a passenger who then assaulted the driver and stole the said vehicle. He filed an FIR and notified the finance company, but the insurance claim was disallowed for an alleged policy breach. The appellant requested compensation from various consumer dispute forums and eventually reached the Supreme Court.

The Apex Court stated that there was no fault of the appellant, and acknowledged a breach of policy but it was not noteworthy enough to terminate it. The 2-judge bench ordered the insurance company to give 75% of the insured amount with 9% annual interest from the entitlement filing date. Moreover, the court directed the insurance company to recompense a compensation sum of Rs. 1 Lakh.

3. Indian Medical Association v. V.P. Shantha and Others

The Indian Medical Association issued a writ petition requesting the Apex Court to pronounce that the Consumer Protection Act does not spread to the medical profession. They contended that the medical professional obeys to distinct Code of Ethics, resulting in medical negligence a matter for medical specialists in their jurisdiction rather than coming under the CPA. The petition raised 2 important questions:

1. Whether a medical practitioner be suitable for giving 'service' under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986?

2. That if medical services are given free of cost, would they still come under the purview of the Act?

The Court observed that the District, the State, and the National Consumer Forums have the power to call medical experts, evaluate evidence, and protect consumer interests. Services provided by doctors and hospitals without due charges will not come within the scope of "service." The Act does not extend to government hospitals which offer free services.

However, if services are given free to the poor, they will fall under the Act. If an insurance company provides the treatment cost for the customer, it also lies under the purview of the Act.

4. Arvind Shah (Dr.) v. Kamlaben Kushwaha[4]

The complainant's son's death was caused by the doctor's incorrect treatment, which led to the State Commission to give a compensation of Rupees 5 lakh for negligence.

On the appeal, the National Commission stated that the existing prescriptions required essential patient information as delegated by medical rules. The Commission, mentioning the case of Samira Kohli v. Dr Prabha Manchanda [5], believed the absenteeism of dynamic details in the prescription slip was medical negligence. While recognizing the crucialness of such information, the Commission also emphasized that their occurrence specifies the doctor's care and conscientiousness, symbolising evidence against unsupported claims. But, due to an absence of direct evidence connecting the patient's demise to negligence, the National Commission abridged the compensation to 2.5 lakhs, along with applicable interest.

5. Sehgal School of Competition v. Dalbir Singh[6]

The petitioner, looking for admission at a medical coaching centre, was asked to deposit a lump sum fee for a 2-year course within the first 6 months. However, upon ending the course due to insufficient services, the coaching centre declined to refund the existing remaining amount.

The State Tribunal brought into line with the Supreme Court and National Commission, held that educational institutions in no case can collect lump sum fees for the whole course. If such fees are collected, they must be repaid in case of a student's withdrawal due to insufficiencies. The court observed any contract clause which is contrary to this ruling is considered invalid due to unsatisfactory bargaining power and abuse of natural justice principles.

The court also stated that additional compensation for mental torture should be granted, but it couldn't be bestowed because it had not been asked in the petition.

6. Spring Meadows Hospital & Anr v. Harjol Ahluwalia[7]

This appeal to the Supreme Court, involved a hospital shielding negligence by its nurses and a doctor, leading to a minor in an enduring vegetative state because of a brain haemorrhage. The main issue was whether parents,(not including the patients themselves), could pursue compensation for the mental torture caused. The court held that the service defined under the Consumer Protection Act includes paying parents and the child who are being benefited by the services. The National Commission was believed correct in giving compensation to the child for apparatus costs and the expenses which led to the vegetative state.

7. Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation v. Ashok Iron Works Private Limited[8]

The Supreme Court elucidated that a corporate body comes within the definition of 'person' under section 2(1)(m) of the Consumer Protection Act. The Court highlighted that the use of the word ‘includes’ in the Act is explanatory and can be thorough. The understanding depends on the text, the context, and the objective of the Act. It was avowed that juristic persons were never envisioned to be omitted from the Act's scope, and the definition is comprehensive.

8. Sapient Corporation Employees Provident Fund Trust v. HDFC & Ors.[9]

In a complaint, HDFC was accused of illegal debit, the National Commission stated that the payment was executed in harmony with a statutory authority's order and the complainant was duly informed. Identifying the potential for frolicsome complaints due to the absenteeism of court fees, the Commission, thinking the complaint missing in seriousness and adequate grounds, levied a fine of 25,000 Rs. on the complainant by Section 26 of the Act.

9. Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences v. Prasanth S. Dhananka & Ors.[10]

In the instant case, the complainant pursued compensation for medical negligence happening during the entire medical procedure which resulted in partial paralysis. The National Tribunal gave judgment in favour of medical negligence, stating that the patient's consent was gained only for the tumour examination and not its removal.

On further appeal to the Supreme Court, the court avowed the Commission's findings, highlighting that the tumour removal was delayed through recorded debate, and thus, implied consent could not be incidental. The court recognized the necessity to strike a balance between the victim's genuine requirements and the opposition party's irrational claims concerning compensation. While identifying that compassion for the victim should not affect compensation decisions, the court highlighted the duty to provide suitable compensation.

As per the circumstances, the court raised the compensation to 25 lakhs each for ongoing medical expenditures and the petitioner's loss of occupation. Additionally, 10 lakhs were given for the appellant's pain and misery, 7,20,000 for the attendant over 30 years, 14,40,000 for nursing care, and 10,80,000 for the physiotherapy expenses over 30 years, additionally with 6% interest.

10. V.N.Shrikhande v. Anita Sena Fernandes

The Petitioner was alleged of medical negligence. It was contended that a gauge mass was left in her abdomen during a gallbladder operation by a medical practitioner. But this petition was filed after 9 years, subsequently, a 2nd operation at a different hospital was done by the petitioner to remove the mass.

The Apex Court recognized the absenteeism of a straightforward formula to regulate the accumulation of cause of action in medical negligence cases. By applying the Discovery Rule, practised in the United States, the court observed that when the result of negligence is evident, the cause of action arises at the very time of negligence. But if the effect is dormant, the cause of action ascends when the patient becomes conscious of the negligence. However, in the instant case, the petitioner had been feeling pain since the operation, which continued for nine years, for which she took painkillers without doctor consultation.

Therefore, the court, considering her profession as a nurse and her skill to have more knowledge than a layman, discarded and set aside the order of the Commission and further dismissed the complaint.

Click Here to Read about the Major Amendments to the Consumer Protection Act of 2019


[1] Civil Appeal No. 3883 of 2007

[2] Revision Petition No. 4419 of 2014

[3] AIR 1996 SC 550

[4] 2009(3) C.P.C.24; III (2009) CPJ121(NC)

[5] [I (2008) CPJ 56 (SC)]

[6] Appeal No.FA-08/1043

[7] Civil Appeal No. 7858 of 1997

[8] Civil Appeal No 1879 of 2003

[9] Consumer Complaint No.123 of 2012

[10] Civil Appeal No. 4119 of 1999

[11] Civil Appeal No. 8983 of 2010

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Anjali is a passionate graduate from Ramaiah College of Law, Bengaluru, seeking opportunities to learn and grow in the field of law.

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