The Madras High Court Bench here has dismissed a writ petition filed by a builder challenging an order passed by the Madurai District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum directing him to pay Rs. 63,000 to an individual towards deficiency of services besides Rs. 17,000 as compensation for mental agony and monetary loss.

Justice K. Chandru dismissed the petition on the ground that an order passed by a consumer forum could not be challenged under Article 226 (power of the High Court to issue writs) of the Constitution. The only remedy available was to file an appeal before the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum and thereafter to the National forum.

Stating that the writ remedy in such cases could be entertained only in extraordinary circumstances, the judge said that in normal circumstances, an aggrieved party must approach the fora provided under the Consumer Protection Act which provides for a hierarchy of authorities as appellate bodies.

On the petitioner's contention that the Calcutta High Court had entertained a writ petition challenging a district consumer forum's order in 1992, the judge said that case arose in the context of a legal question as to whether educational institutions would be covered under the Consumer Protection Act.

Hence, the Calcutta High Court had held that the services rendered by a teacher were not a kind of service described under Section 2(O) of the Act. It was further held that the relationship between a teacher and a student was not a service based on hire and the student could not be described as a consumer or buyer of economic goods.

However, in the present case, the builder T. Selvam had entered into an agreement with the consumer, T.R. Desikan, and therefore the consumer forum had complete jurisdiction to award compensation and pass an appropriate order which could be challenged only before the State Consumer Forum, Mr. Justice Chandru said.

He also pointed out that the builder had obtained anticipatory bail from the Principal Sessions Court following a criminal complaint lodged by the consumer on charges of cheating. Only after that, the present writ petition had been filed challenging the award passed by the district consumer forum.