|CONSUMER PROTECTION AND NATIONAL CONSUMER DISPUTES REDRESSAL COMMISSION|
The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (in short, ‘the Act’), is a benevolent social legislation that lays down the rights of the consumers and provides their for promotion and protection of the rights of the consumers. The first and the only Act of its kind in India, it has enabled ordinary consumers to secure less expensive and often speedy redressal of their grievances. By spelling out the rights and remedies of the consumers in a market so far dominated by organized manufacturers and traders of goods and providers of various types of services, the Act makes the dictum, caveat emptor (‘buyer beware’) a thing of the past.
The Act mandates establishment of Consumer Protection Councils at the Centre as well as in each State and District, with a view to promoting consumer awareness.
The Central Council is headed by Minster, In-charge of the Department of Consumer Affairs in the Central Government and the State Councils by the Minister In-charge of the Consumer Affairs in the State Governments. It also provides for a 3-tier structure of the National and State Commissions and District Forums for speedy resolution of consumer disputes.
To provide inexpensive, speedy and summary redressal of consumer disputes, quasi-judicial bodies have been set up in each District and State and at the National level, called the District Forums, the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions and the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission respectively. At present, there are 629 District Forums and 35 State Commissions with the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) at the apex. NCDRC has its office at Upbhokta Naya Bhawan, 'F' Block, GPO Complex, INA, New Delhi-110 023.
Each District Forum is headed by a person who is or has been or is eligible to be appointed as a District Judge and each State Commission is headed by a person who is or has been a Judge of High Court.
The National Commission was constituted in the year 1988. It is headed by a sitting or retired Judge of the Supreme Court of India. The National Commission is presently headed by Hon’ble Mr. Justice Ashok Bhan, former Judge of the Supreme Court of India as President and has ten Members, viz. Hon'ble Mrs. Vineeta Rai, Hon'ble Mr. Vinay Kumar, Hon'ble Mr. Suresh Chandra, Hon'ble Mr. Justice V.B Gupta, Hon'ble Mr. Justice J.M. Malik, Hon'ble Mr. Justice K. S. Chaudhari, Hon'ble Mr. Justice Ajit Bharihoke, Hon'ble Mrs. Rekha Gupta, Hon'ble Dr. B. C. Gupta & Hon'ble Dr. S. M. Kantikar.
The provisions of this Act cover ‘goods’ as well as ‘services’. The goods are those which are manufactured or produced and sold to consumers through wholesalers and retailers. The services are in the nature of transport, telephone, electricity, housing, banking, insurance, medical treatment, etc.
A written complaint, can be filed before the District Consumer Forum for pecuniary value of upto Rupees twenty lakh, State Commission for value upto Rupees one crore and the National Commission for value above Rupees one crore, in respect of defects in goods and or deficiency in service. The service can be of any description and the illustrations given above are only indicative. However, no complaint can be filed for alleged deficiency in any service that is rendered free of charge or under a contract of personal service.
The remedy under the Consumer Protection Act is an alternative in addition to that already available to the aggrieved persons/consumers by way of civil suit. In the complaint/appeal/petition submitted under the Act, a consumer is not required to pay any court fees but only a nominal fee.
Consumer Fora proceedings are summary in nature. The endeavor is made to grant relief to the aggrieved consumer as quickly as in the quickest possible, keeping in mind the provisions of the Act which lay down time schedule for disposal of cases.
If a consumer is not satisfied by the decision of a District Forum, he can appeal to the State Commission. Against the order of the State Commission a consumer can come to the National Commission.
In order to help achieve the objects of the Consumer Protection Act, the National Commission has also been conferred with the powers of administrative control over all the State Commissions by calling for periodical returns regarding the institution, disposal and pendency of cases. The National Commission is empowered to issue instructions regarding (1) adoption of uniform procedure in the hearing of the matters, (2) prior service of copies of documents produced by one party to the opposite parties, (3) speedy grant of copies of documents, and (4) generally over-seeing the functioning of the State Commissions and the District Forums to ensure that the objects and purposes of the Act are best served, without interfering with their quasi-judicial freedom.
The Registry of the National Commission is at the Ground Floor, Upbhokta Nyay Bhawan, 'F' Block, GPO Complex, INA, New Delhi-110 023 which remains open on all working days. For any enquiry with the Registry of the National Commission, one can contact on Telephone Nos. 011-24608801, 24608802, 24608803, 24608804 and Fax No. 24651505. The filing timings are from 10.00 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. Every matter filed with the Registry is listed on the 7th day of its filing for admission before the National Commission. Functioning of District Forum, State Commission and National Commission is consumer friendly, and thus a consumer can file a complaint and also address arguments in person. In genuine cases where the complainant/ appellant/ petitioner before the National Commission is unable to engage the services of an advocate legal aid is provided by the Commission free of charge.
V. Balakrishna Eradi
The First President of NCDRC
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