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Consumer Commission Vacancies : Supreme Court Warns States Of Exemplary Costs If Status Report Is Not Filed In A Week

Sneha Rao
10 Nov 2021 10:45 AM GMT
Consumer Commission Vacancies : Supreme Court Warns States Of Exemplary Costs If Status Report Is Not Filed In A Week
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The Supreme Court on Wednesday warned that costs in the range of Rupees 1 to 2 lakhs will be imposed on States which fail to submit status report within a week regarding the vacancies in State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission. The Court added that the costs will be recovered from the concerned officials.A Bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M.M Sundresh made the above observations...

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday warned that costs in the range of Rupees 1 to 2 lakhs will be imposed on States which fail to submit status report within a week regarding the vacancies in State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission. The Court added that the costs will be recovered from the concerned officials.

A Bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M.M Sundresh made the above observations while considering the suo-motu case taken by it to deal with the vacancies in Consumer Commissions across the country. Earlier, on 22/09/2021, the Bench had issued a clarification that the judgement of the Bombay High court striking down the Consumer Protection Act would not impede the appointment already made and processes imitated in other states. The Bench had also expressed its anguish at the mounting vacancies in the consumer commissions across the country.


The Amicus Curiae in the case, Gopal Sankarnarayan informed the Court that he had not received all the reports from all the states. In view of the fact that a number of states had not filed status reports to Amicus Curiae, the suo-motu case regarding filling of vacancies in Consumer Dispute Redressal Commissions will be heard again after three weeks. The defaulting states have been asked to submit their status reports regarding infrastructure and manpower within one week to the Amicus failing which the Court would impose costs.


Amicus Gopal Sankarnarayan had informed the court that the State of Gujarat had not filed the status report and the state of Goa had not filed a report on staff. Further, he informed the Court that states of Delhi, Rajasthan, Kerala, Punjab, Telangana and UP have not submitted information for staff and that the state of Bihar has submitted a status report for infrastructure.

Justice Kaul expressed his displeasure at the non-compliance by the states of the Court's order dated 22.10.2021 and orally remarked that the Court would impose 1-2 lakh cost for all states if they fail to comply.

"If this is the only language you understand, we will do it...and recover it from the officers...Please understand the information that you send in the format to them will facilitate them to analyse it and make a submission to us. Otherwise what is happening is instead of hearing them on what directions are to be issued vis-a-vis a particular state we are hearing you and the hearing is endlessly going on. What is the purpose of inviting an Amicus?" he said.


Justice Kaul reprimanded the Counsels of the defaulting states and said: "Despite a lot of effort I have not been able to change this. When the court says 4 weeks it means 28 days and 3 weeks mean 21 days and not the 22nd day. Somehow respect for time schedules is not kept and unfortunately it throws the hearing out of gear for the simple reason that we don't seem to discipline ourselves with any sense of time."

"Where are the Chief Secretaries? Do you want us to issue bailable warrants now? Is that what will compel the states to comply with our orders?", he asked.


Justice Kaul further added:
"This is effectively the work of the State. So what is the judicial intervention required to ask the states to perform their obligation under the Statute….Please appreciate the scope of this Act. It is to redress the small aspect of daily lives of the consumers. It makes, if I may say so, political sense to see that these posts are manned so that grievances of the people are remedied. That's all that is required."

"The Act is not working...dates are not being given, matters are not being heard. And if I may say so, the Centre and States should monitor what is the inflow of cases, how many disposals are taking place, is the system working or not...some performance assessment of these must be done."
In light of the emphasis of the Bench on the need for legislative impact assessment, Amicus Sankarnarayan pointed out that the Court's last order of August had ordered that such a report be carried out and submitted within 4 weeks. He also pointed out that the order has observed that such an assessment would assist the Court in knowing the requirement of infrastructure and manpower.

"In the absence of such a report, it's a little bit of stumbling in the dark. Whatever numbers we eventually get on infrastructure we would still be unsure of what is the actual requirement," he submitted.

Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi submitted that in pursuance of the Court's order dated 11.08.202, a legislative impact assessment has been undertaken and submitted via an affidavit.
The Bench asked ASG Lekhi to share a copy of the report with Amicus and called upon both the Amicus and Mr Lekhi to jointly examine the report. The matter will be heard next on 01.12.2021.  The order of the court reads as:

"Amicus informs us that there are Google forms sent one for manpower deployment and the other for space. Most of the states have sent their responses but despite our order dated 22.10.2021, some of the states have not sent full information. In this behalf, it is submitted by Amicus that the states of Goa, Delhi, Rajasthan, Kerala and Punjab have not submitted information for staff. The state of Bihar has submitted a status report for infrastructure and Gujarat for either.
The Learned Counsels show us that the deficiencies will be made up within a week from today. We put the defaulting state to notice that we will take a very serious view of the matter and impose costs for the wastage of judicial time if the needful is not done and verified from the Amicus whether they have received it. In the serious view of the matter, impose exemplary costs to be recovered from the officers concerned.

We re-emphasise that we are not inclined to appreciate wastage of judicial time by parties in defaulting in such a matter. This results in a considerable time period of courts being spent. We will impose costs on defaulting states for wastage of judicial time for recovery against officers.

Pursuant of an order of this court dated 11.08.2021, a legislative impact assessment has been conducted. It appears it has not been shared with the Amicus. The needful be shared. We call upon both the Amicus and Mr.Lekhi to jointly examine the report.

On the basis of the information furnished and analysis of the same, the Amicus will give their inputs to the court within a week thereafter.

The matter will be heard next on 01/12/2021. "


Case Title: RE: Inaction of the Governments in appointing President and Members/Staff of Districts and State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission and inadequate infrastructure across India| SMW (C) No(s). 2/2021

Click Here To Read/ Download Order


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