Beyond any reasonable doubt, consumer courts are doing wonderful despite all the impediments ,odds and difficulties faced by them throughout the country.This can be visualized from the results shown as 89.77% disposal by these redressal agencies since the inception as per the report presented by the ministry of consumer affairs in the seminar held on 14th and 15th march 2011.Yet the emerging scenario is too depressing betraying a total lack of willingness on the part of many states in implementing seriously this most benevolent legislation,Consumer Protection Act 1986 .However orders pronounced by these forums and commissions have now compelled the manufacturers , traders and service providers to wake up and improve their functioning.Any malpractice by them is not tolerated by these agencies
Recently insurance companies short listed some of the hospitals from their panel and objected to their prescribing a number of laboratory tests, and recommending costly treatments and operations which insurance companies thought could be avoided. Subsequently insurance companies stopped cashless facilities in some of these private hospitals. But there was sharp retaliation to such move, and courts through various judgments warned the insurance companies not to step into the shoe of doctors. Case of mediclaim in the matter of Shamim Khan V New India insurance company, Maharashtra State Consumer Dispute Redressed Commission has shown insurance firms their place, directing that it is the doctor and not the insurer who can decide whether a case requires emergency medical attention or not.
Observing such move by these courts ,manufacturers have changed their attitude and leaning towards setteling the cases pending before the courts on the first date itself .The scenario is that washing machines,mobile phones ,T.V. sets etc are getting replaced and cases are withdrawn as setteled .The fact of such settlements hardly comes on record but surely is a big success of consumer forums .Unfortunately cases against corporates linger on for years due to lack of willingness and lazy methods of functioning on the part of corporates and these cases only cause ill repute to the functioning of consumer forums
It has been further observed that in the field of education also UGC has issued certain guidelines for the educational institutes .A public notice was issued by UGC on 23.4.2007 with the following instructions-
“The commission is of the view that it would not be permissible for the institutions /universities , to retain the school leaving certificate ,marksheets,caste certificate and other documents in original.”
It has been further directed that
“the entire fee collected from the student after a deduction of processing fee not more than Rs 1000/- shall be refunded to the student /candidate withdrawing from the programme .”
The similar notification has been issued by AICTE[All India council of technical education] on 19.4.2007 with the similar directions to the institutes/universities imparting technical education
Even electricity board in a case in 2011 ,has agreed to act upon their earlier issued two circulars dated 16.1.1995 and 6.4.1995 clarifying that where the consumer comes ahead to pay boards dues, then the past disconnection dues would be dropped These circulars were in earliar cases not brought forward for giving relief to consumers
There are Promises by Insurance Regulatory authority also to adopt soft attitude in mediclaim cases and renewal of mediclaim policy for senior citizens
It is surely a big achievement of consumer courts though there is enough to be done by the governing bodies to improve the working conditions of these forums .
Dr Prem Lata