THOOTHUKUDI: In view of World Consumer Rights Day on Wednesday, activists have urged the state government to fill vacancies in the Thoothukudi district consumer disputes redressal commission, which lacks an adequate number of members to hear pending cases. The panel must comprise a president and two members. However, the member post allotted for a woman candidate remains vacant and the other member has been deputed to the Tirunelveli commission owing to a vacancy there.
Following a long waiting period, the state government in March 2022, appointed a retired judge as president and two members for the consumer disputes redressal commission in Thoothukudi district. However, the woman member resigned and the post has been vacant ever since.
Sources said though over 500 consumer grievance cases are pending in Thoothukudi district as of January 2023, the commission functions for only two days a week. The only member is being deputed for three days a week to the Tirunelveli commission. It may be noted that Tirunelveli has a high influx of consumer-right-based cases, with at least 1,500 cases pending at present.
Honorary Secretary of Empower India Centre for Consumer Education Research and Advocacy A Sankar, who is also a former member of the Thoothukudi consumer redressal forum, told TNIE that the Consumer Rights Protection Act, 2019, had enhanced the pecuniary jurisdiction of the district commissions to investigate cases demanding compensation upto `50 lakh (previously `10 lakh). Many cases pertaining to high compensation values are dealt with at the district level, which necessitates the daily functioning of the commission. Consumer grievance cases should be disposed of within 90 days, he said.
The quorum mandates the presence of the president and at least one member for hearing the cases. "With the only available member being deputed to a neighbouring district for almost three days in a week, the functioning of the panel has been paralysed. Justice is being delayed for the complainants and victims," said R Sundararaj, a consumer rights activist.
Sources said the posts of members at the district commissions in Chengalpattu, Karur, Nagercoil, Salem, Nilgiris and Tirunelveli have been lying vacant. When contacted, a top official said the selection of the members had been finalised. However, the appointment is on hold due to a case pending at the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court in this regard, he said.