GLARING COMPLAINTS OF CONSUMERS
(CONSUMER COURT FUNCTIONING)
Whether new act or amendment or total repeal of the old act; Consumer courts to function on the principal of natural justice. As on date or even after pending amendment of the consumer protection act,the basic concept of this welfare act remains consumer welfare and procedure is to be summery in nature, civil procedure code or evidence act is not to be followed strictly.
But if we look at the functioning of the consumer forums, it is neither following the principal of natural justice nor keeping in mind the welfare of consumers. Retired judges appointed as President join the forum and follow the same routine like civil court knowing or unknowingly just by virtue of habit. In the process, consumer is the worst sufferer person who fails to understand it what sense this summery procedure.
We have checked thoroughly the reasons of undue delay in the consumer forums and found glaring complaints made by the consumers. Our survey reveals
PRELIMINARY OBJECTIONS NOT SETTLED FIRST–
A special provision of preliminary hearing was incorporated in the act through amendment 2002 giving 21 one day to the forum to decide whether a case is fit for admission or not. But consumer forum even now admit the case without considering the points whether have the jurisdiction or not Case goes on till end and finally it is dismissed for want of jurisdiction whereas preliminary objection taken in the beginning is to be addressed first. Consumer is shocked at the end when finds his case comes back to the starting point as unheard on merits.
NO EX-PARTY ORDER INSPITE OF OPPOSITE PARTY ABSENT
At times Opposite Party remains absent for number of dates, O.P. should precede ex-parte after one or two dates but matter goes adjourned without reason.
NUMBER OF NOTICES WHEN OPPOSITE PARTY DOES NOT APPEAR
As per the procedure, if notice does not come back as UN served, it is presumed notice served .At the most one additional Dasti notice can be given. There cannot be another notice time and again in any court .But in the forums .Notice sent many times delaying the entire process or struck at one point only. Court needs to know if notice is going on correct address or complainant can be directed to produce other possible address. But complainant is unaware as to why so many dates are adjourned for notice only.
ADJOURNMENTS WITH NO REASONS
Summery procedure under Consumer Protection Act provide no adjournments without noting the reasons for adjournment in special case But in the forums, It is a normal practice to adjourn the matter for two three dates without making any noting or reason.
NOTICE AGAIN AFTER ORDER IS MADE
Consumer forum does not have the jurisdiction to review its own order. Only some clerical mistake is allowed to be rectified by way of corrigendum and not by amendment BUT At times forum issues notice again to the parties after order has been pronounced pointing out some mistake and re-opens the case
PROLONGED EXPERT OPINION PROCESS
It is the forum who appoint expert agency, sends relevant document/vehicle for inspection, fixing particular time and place, directing the parties to follow the process in prescribed time BUT the process of obtaining expert opinion is prolonged endlessly by corresponding with the concerned agency. Consumer is losing faith in the forums for making simple process a never ending task.
APPEARANCE OF PROXY WITHOUT FILE
Because of summery procedure, case needs to be disposed of within minimum time. BUT
Appearance of proxy counsels without knowing the case or without file for taking adjournment is not discouraged
ORDER SIGNED BY THE MEMBER NOT PRESENT AT THE TIME OF ARGUMENT
As per the law, Member present at the time of argument can only sign the order BUT Member not present at the time of argument signs the order and it is open to challenge before the higher court for want of power /jurisdiction of the member to sign. Similarly Member present on the day of argument but incidentally absent the day order is signed by other member, such order is not a valid order. This is often done in the forums and such order is also open to challenge before the higher court
SENIOR CITIZENS NOT SECURED IN PROLONGED HIGH STAKE CASES
A lot of emphasis is given to secure the interest of senior citizens in the act but a high stake cases such as real estate and insurance are prolonged .Senior citizens are in great trouble at old age not getting a house after spending lifelong saving, no special provision available to them for handling such cases. Even if New Real Estate Law has come into force, it remains common for all, consumer forums need to consider the point on the basis of rules framed in favor of senior citizens.
The Above are not the issues of criticism but are the basic points on which Ministry needs to survey the situation and frame rules to avoid all irregularities taking place even after passing long thirty years. There is no fun of making law and not doing anything to implement in its spirit.
Dr Prem Lata