NEW DELHI: A three member Supreme Court appointed committee has informed the apex court that the state of consumer courts working in India is not at par and is working in poor organizational set up with lack of infrastructure.
The committee has submitted its report and said that the consumer awareness levels at rural and semi-urban areas are still lacking far behind and the role of consumer forums are rarely known to people at large.
A bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur had in February constituted a committee to carry out detail scrutiny of the functioning of the Consumer Protection Courts and suggest remedial measures.
As per the present Consumer Protection Act, 1986, which aims at providing expeditious relief to consumers against unfair trade practices and deficiency in services, any consumer can approach the forum with grievances.
The committee comprising former Supreme Court Judge Arijit Pasayat, former Delhi High Court Judge Rekha Sharma and Union Secretary for Consumer Affairs or his nominee on board was also asked to look at the issues of consumer courts with regard to infrastructural requirements, vacancies at National Commissions and District Forums, need for additional benches of national, state and district panels, salary and service conditions of forum members and other difficulties faced by litigants.
In its report to the, the committee stated that the government’s initiative of consumer awareness campaign Jago Grahak Jago had a very limited impact and people are hardly aware of them.
It also came to notice of the committee that consumer courts hardly work for two-three hours in a day and files are getting damaged by termites as most of the time they are lying unattended and kept open.
The committee has also allege that the bureaucrats and politicians are showing undue favour to their people and appoint them on vacant positions at the consumer court level on the post of non-judicial member, thus preventing the eligible candidates to join the forums.
As on date, 400385 cases were pending across national, state and district forums as which included 288762 cases in district forums alone.
Though the disposal rate of National Consumer court is as high as 91 percent, whereas in state consumer courts it is 86 percent and on district level it is nearly 93 percent.
The committee has also recommended in order to maintain the speedy disposal at the same pace, it is also mandatory on the part of state governments to take action for filling vacancies for presidents and members and have a panel of candidates in place for filling vacancies and preventing delay in appointments.
Presently, the district and state consumer forums have a vacancy of 359 officials.