27 Sep 2009

No compensation for disconnection of Telephone: Supreme Court

In this rather short decision, the Supreme Court has held that a person aggrieved by disconnection of telephone connection cannot by granted compensation to this regard by the Consumer Forum. The case arose in which manner; Mr. Krishnan had a telephone connection, which was disconnected by telephone department for non-payment of telephone bill. He approached the Consumer forum complaining against the disconnection. The Forum agreed and grated compensation to him. The Telephone Department challenged the order before the High Court and the High Court agreed with the Consumer Forum.

This is how the matter was before the Supreme Court. The Court observed that the decision of the lower authorities was incorrect as the provisions of the consumer law did not apply. It observed, "In our opinion when there is a special remedy provided in Section 7-B of the Indian Telegraph Act regarding disputes in respect of telephone bills, then the remedy under the Consumer Protection Act is by implication barred."

It was also observed that "Rule 413 of the Telegraph Rules provides that all services relating to telephone are subject to Telegraph Rules. A telephone connection can be disconnected by the Telegraph Authority for default of payment under Rule 443 of the Rules. It is well settled that the special law overrides the general law. Hence, in our opinion the High Court was not correct in its approach."

Thus in terms of the declaration of law to this effect, any grievance relating to disconnection of telephone etc. can be addressed only by way of arbitration under the Telegraph Act and the consumer forums cannot step in.

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