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Plea In Supreme Court Against Govt.'s Inaction In Appointment Of Presidents, Members Of State, District Consumer Fora

Mehal Jain
29 Dec 2020 11:23 AM GMT
Plea In Supreme Court Against Govt.s Inaction In Appointment Of Presidents, Members Of State, District Consumer Fora
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The Supreme Court has been moved in a PIL challenging inaction of the government in failing to appoint President, Members and Staff before District Consumer Dispute Redressal Commissions and State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions across India.The plea by petitioner-law student Saloni Gautam, through advocates Dushyant Tiwari, Om Prakash Parihar, avers that on 20.07.2020 the...

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The Supreme Court has been moved in a PIL challenging inaction of the government in failing to appoint President, Members and Staff before District Consumer Dispute Redressal Commissions and State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions across India.

The plea by petitioner-law student Saloni Gautam, through advocates Dushyant Tiwari, Om Prakash Parihar, avers that on 20.07.2020 the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 came into force and the 2019 Act also changed the pecuniary jurisdiction for the District, State and National Commissions, respectively. The pecuniary limit for the District Commission has been increased to up to Rs.1 Crore from up to Rs. 20 Lakhs; for State Commission it has been increased to up to Rs.10 Crores from up to Rs.1 Crore; and for National Commission the pecuniary jurisdiction has been increased to over and above Rs.10 Crores as against Rs.1 Crore in the 1986 Act. "Therefore, the counsel for the Petitioner, on the instruction received from her sent an RTI dated 19.08.2020 to the Respondent No. 2 to 6 and sought information regarding vacancies of President, Members and Staff in the Consumer Commissions of their respective States. That on 17.09.2020 the Respondent No. 2 replied to the RTI, but they failed to answer various crucial questions", it is stated.

"It is pertinent to note that through an RTI certain questions were asked about in one of the question it was asked that "whether State Commission have proper number of President and Members", for which Respondent No. 2 has replied and stated that only 1-member post is vacant, but as per status mentioned in Delhi State Disputes Redressal Commission website as on 21.11.2020 there are 2 post vacant in the State Commission, Delhi.

That on 01.10.2020 Respondent No. 5 replied to the RTI and stated that there are 2 more members are required to be appointed in the State Commission at Chandigarh. That on 04.11.2020 Respondent No. 4 also reply to the RTI and they have stated that various post of President and Members are vacant in the entire Maharashtra. That as per the information received from the information source, in Assam the President and Members of the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forums of Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Nagaon, Guwahati and Kokrajhar had been lying vacant for a long time", the petition submits.

It is advanced that the information further states that:-

"the Secretary, of CLPF, Assam, Ajoy Hazarika has clearly stated that "Moreover, out of 33 districts of the state, only Guwahati, Nagaon, Jorhat, Dibrugarh, Tezpur, Nalbari, Kokrajhar, Silchar have full-fledged District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forums. The other districts do not have full-fledged forums. So, the consumers' complaints are handled by the district and sessions judges who cannot devote much time to address the issues because they have to deal with civil and criminal cases". He further said that the post of president in Kamrup (metro) district forum had been lying vacant since December 31, 2018."

Therefore, it is pointed out that this clearly shows the pathetic condition of the consumer commissions in Assam.

The plea submits that various High Courts in India have ordered the State Governments to appoint President and Members in District and State Commission, but no action has been taken till date. It is cited that on 16.06.2020, the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad has passed an order and stated that:-

"Learned Standing Counsel may seek instructions and file a Counter Affidavit as to why appointments of members in the District Consumer Forum as were not made in time, as to what is the status of the appointments as on date or the time frame within which appointments are likely to be made. The Counter Affidavit may be filed within three weeks.

Let the petition be listed again on 23 July 2020."

It is averred that the matter again got listed on 31.08.2020 and time was sought by the Standing Counsel praying for filing Counter Affidavit and four weeks was granted as last opportunity, but till now the case is not listed. But on 27.10.2020, the Uttar Pradesh government has issued notification for the appointment of President and Members for various District Consumer Commissions in Uttar Pradesh.

It is submitted that as per another source of information, it came into the knowledge of the Petitioner that, more than 16 posts of president and 25 of members are lying vacant in the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forums across Punjab and some of the posts are believed to have been lying vacant for past two years.

It is submitted that even the High Court of Jammu & Kashmir has recently sought compliance report from the government over the functioning of Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission and District Consumer Forums under Consumer Protection Act, 2019 in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, but despite that no result has come till now.

It is urged that as per the information received from the cause list of the District Consumer Commission's at Delhi, one President is handling more than one District Consumer Commissions because the government has failed to appoint new President and Members.

The plea further submits that as per one study, the Karnataka State Commission will take 7 years to dispose of all consumer disputes. This study also shows a mirror to the other Consumer Commissions in India that the lack of President and Members in these Commissions are injustice to those litigants who have wait for years to get judgment from these Commissions.

"It is also pertinent to note that these vacancies are not only limited to the above mentioned States of India, but this situation exist in almost all the States of India, which is evident from one of the media report about the condition of District Consumer Commissions at Orissa, as 18 posts each of president and members are lying vacant in 18 DCDRFs. The post of president and a member was also lying vacant in the State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission, the Hon'ble Orissa High Court has asked State Government to file an affidavit and clear the air over restoration of the functioning of District Consumer Dispute Redressal Forums (DCDRFs) in which posts of president and members are lying vacant. It is pertinent to note that even the Consumer Commissions at Uttarakhand are also facing shortage of Presidents and Members", reads the petition.

The petitioner has pressed that all this clearly shows that the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 came into force and the pecuniary jurisdictions of the Consumer Commissions have changed/increased, but the governments have not made any arrangement in filing the post of Presidents and Members in these Commissions. It is also submitted that in various District Commissions even the staff is not sufficient which leads to delay in passing final order/judgment by these Commissions which again leads to delay in getting justice. Moreover, various Consumer Commissions do not even have proper infrastructure to run in a smooth manner which at the end leads to delay in delivering justice to the consumers.

"It is further pertinent to note that even this Hon'ble Court while hearing case related to long adjournment in NCDRC, has noticed that several tribunals suffer from a lack of adequate infrastructure for proper functioning of the consumer commissions", it is pointed out.

The Petitioner is seeking the following reliefs:

a. Issue a writ of mandamus or other appropriate writ order or direction directing Respondents and the concerned authorities to fill vacant position of the President and Members in the Consumer Commission's immediately across India;

b. Issue a writ of mandamus or other appropriate writ order or direction directing the Respondents and the concerned authorities to provide proper infrastructure and staff to the Consumer Commission's as soon as possible and file detailed report regarding the same before this Hon'ble Court;

c. Issue such other appropriate writ or direction that may be deemed to be just and equitable in the facts and circumstances of the case and in the interest of justice.


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