For every purchase made or service obtained, the consumer must retain related documents — they double up as evidence if and when problems crop up

Let us imagine that you have been wronged and that you have decided to approach the Court for justice. What are the important aspects to have at hand before going to Court? One is, of course, that you need to have genuine grievance under law and not perceived injustice, and the second most crucial one is to establish that you were wronged. Thus, to substantiate the fact that you were wronged, you need evidence.

Black's Law Dictionary, the Bible for people in the legal profession, defines evidence as something (including testimony, documents and tangible objects) that tends to prove or disprove the existence of an alleged fact.

The object of every judicial investigation is the enforcement of a right or liability that depends on certain facts. Thus, it is evidence that leads to authentication of facts, and in the process, helps rationalise the opinion of the Judicial authorities.

The Consumer Courts are no exception, and therefore, if one decides to file a complaint before the Consumer Courts, he / she should include sufficient proof to validate his / her claim. I write this in light of the fact that we often come across consumers who don't retain related documents, and as a result, find it difficult to seek a legal remedy.

For example, when we buy a product, it is necessary to get the invoice, the warranty card with the dealer's seal and date affixed and the manual or any other information material that goes with the product, and retain it carefully. The same applies while obtaining a service as well. Next, when the product becomes defective, it should be taken to the authorised service centre for repairs, and job-sheet taken. Copies of these job-sheets along with copies of the complaint letters should be kept. When the issue is not sorted out to one's satisfaction, all these papers will help in asserting the complaint when a case is filed in the Consumer Forum to seek damages.

In a recent case, the complainant had bought ‘silpaulin' (sheet used to line farm ponds / fresh water ponds / fish ponds / community water tank / potable water tank. etc), and was given the assurance it would be in good condition for about five years. But, it started leaking within a few months of purchase. Because of this, the appellant suffered huge losses and took the company, which manufactured it, to court. The complainant did not have any papers. As it turned out, the case was dismissed because the complainant did not produce the invoice or the warranty / guarantee as evidence. He also did not get an expert opinion on the poor quality of ‘silpaulin' that could have backed up his case.

On the contrary, the opposite party produced the invoice proving the date of purchase of the ‘silpaulin' — dated a few years ago, as evidence. Consequently, the complaint was also time barred.

This obviously reiterates the significance of evidence as this will only help the Courts decide whether the fact exists or not.

(The writer works with CAG, which offers free advice on consumer complaints to its members. For membership details / queries contact 2491 4358 / 2446 0387 or helpdesk@cag.org.in)

Keywords: Consumer Court

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