The Delhi High Court has asked the Delhi government to show cause why rule nisi be not issued against it for its failure to take effective steps to fill up vacancies, adopting summary procedures and providing infrastructure in the various consumer forums to ensure speedy disposal of consumer complaints under the Consumer Protection Act, which is a beneficial legislation.
A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V Kameswar Rao issued a notice to the Delhi government and granted it four weeks’ time to file counter affidavit.
The notice comes on a petition moved by NGO Dignity Restoration & Grievance Settlement Association (DRGSA), which works towards educating consumers about their rights and work towards mediation between consumers and departments.
The DRGSA moved the high court through advocates Shantha Devi Raman, Arihant Jain and Abhishek Naithany.
The NGO alleged that despite various judgments passed by the Supreme Court and various other courts across the country, the Consumer Protection Act has not been given its full effect and the consumers have not been able to derive its benefits with consumer complaints suffering huge delays which, in turn, is putting more financial burden on the consumer.
Relying on RTI response received from the Delhi government’s Department of Food, Supplies and Consumer Affairs, the petitioner said, “…it has been more than 32 years since the Act came into existence, still the consumer complaints are lingering in the State Commission and District Foras for years together, due to which the object of the Act has lost its sheen. The reasons for various delay/pendency in the disposal of consumer complaints are many, such as vacant positions in District Foras, lack of infrastructure, untrained staff and not adhering to the summary procedure by the State Commission and District Foras etc.”
The petitioner also informed the court that as per the data received in response to an RTI application, in the beginning of June 2018, the total number of cases pending jointly in state commission and district forums was 23,718, which by the end of the month touched 23,887.
“During this period State Commission and District Forums disposed of only 198 cases and as many as 367 fresh cases were filed which increased the number of pendency in State Commission and District Forums, ultimately rendering the object of the said Act obsolete.
“The total number of complaints pending from 0-5 years are 13082 and a total number of complaints pending from 5-10 years are 4902, while Section 13 (3A) of the Act provides for 3 months as a period for deciding the complaints,” it submitted.
Stressing on the need for summary procedure to dispose of consumer complaints, the petitioner referred to Supreme Court observation in case titled Charan Singh V. Healing Touch Hospital and Others, wherein it was held that “the consumer forums must take expeditious steps to deal with the complaints filed before them and not keep them pending for years. It would defeat the object of the act, if summary trials are not disposed of expeditiously by the forums at the district, state or national levels. Steps in this direction are required to be taken in the right earnest”.
The petitioner also suggested measures like the state governments appointing ad-hoc judicial officers and members as well as the staff for resolving the consumer disputes, introducing alternative dispute resolution at the pre-litigation stage and also forming a committee for deciding the pecuniary limits and resolving disputes through conciliation.
The petitioner prayed that necessary directions be passed to make way for ad-hoc appointments in consumer forums to dispose of complaints pending for over two years, service of notice through electronic modes, electronic filing of complaints etc.
The matter is now listed for April 1.
Read the Order Here