Home Dehradun State Consumer Commission and 12 District Commissions operating without chairpersons

State Consumer Commission and 12 District Commissions operating without chairpersons

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Consumer justice dysfunctional in Uttarakhand

By Arun Pratap Singh

Dehradun, 28 Mar: Consumer justice is almost dysfunctional in Uttarakhand with more than 4,760 cases pending in various consumer dispute redressal commissions in the state. Of the total number of 4,760 cases pending in the state, over 1215 cases are pending for more than 5 years. Such pendency encourages many of the companies and traders to cheat the consumers in many ways without any fear of the law. One major reason behind such a long pendency is that the post of chairperson of the state level Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission and the posts of 12 chairpersons in the district level consumer disputes redressal commissions are lying vacant for a long time, even when the rule is that the process to appoint chairpersons and members in the commissions should be started 6 months before these actually fall vacant. This provision is to ensure that the consumers can continue to get justice if they feel that they have been cheated by the traders or companies.

The information regarding the pendency of the cases as well as the vacancies in the commissions was revealed in a response given by the government under Right to Information (RTI) sought by RTI activist Advocate Nadeem Uddin a resident of Kashipur. In response to the RTI enquiry, Public Information Officer/Administrative Officer of State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Uttarakhand, Vandana Sharma has provided related details in her letter number 151 dated 16 March 2024.

As per the available details, the post of Chairman in the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission fell vacant from 4 January 2024. The posts of Member (Judicial) and Member (General) have been lying vacant from 1 January 2022. At the same time, the posts of chairpersons of 12 district commissions out of 13 districts are also lying vacant for long. The post of Chairman of Dehradun from March 2022, of Haridwar from December 2022, of Chairman of Uttarkashi, Tehri Garhwal, Pauri Garhwal, Chamoli, Rudraprayag, Almora, Bageshwar, Champawat, Pithoragarh from May 2023 and the post of Chairman of Consumer Commission of Udham Singh Nagar from December 2023.

Due to this, the work of the State Commission and 3 District Commissions has been adversely and hugely affected. Sources claim that the disposal of cases in 10 District Commissions is totally stalled at present due to vacancies. The cases are being disposed albeit slowly in the three District Commissions of Nainital, Almora and Bageshwar because the Chairman of the Nainital District Consumer Commission in the state, Ramesh Kumar Jaiswal is looking after the additional workload of the Chairman of Almora and Bageshwar District Commission.

According to the available details, 4760 consumer cases were pending in the State and District Consumer Commissions at the end of 2023. This included 3585 cases related to consumer complaints in District Consumer Commissions and 72 cases related to consumer complaints and 1103 first appeal cases in State Consumer Commission. In the year 2023, 970 cases were filed in the District Consumer Commissions, while 113 first appeal and 3 consumer complaint related cases were filed during this period. The State Commission has disposed of 28 complaints and 407 appeals and the District Commissions have disposed of 470 consumer complaint during this period, whereas as per the provisions of the law, the cases should be disposed of within 3 months.

According to the Consumer Protection Act 2019, there is a provision to decide consumer complaints and appeals within three months (five months in case of laboratory related complaints), but 32 cases older than 10 years are still pending in the state. This includes 7 appeals in District Commissions and 20 appeals in State Commission and 5 cases related to consumer complaints. The 182 cases awaiting decision in the state for ten years include consumer complaints in 41 district commissions and 20 state commissions and 121 first appeal cases. Of the 284 cases that are awaiting decision for seven years, complaints and 152 first appeals are pending in 103 District Commissions and 29 State Commissions. Out of 717 cases, 364 complaints are pending in the District Commission and 11 complaints and 342 appeals are pending in the State Commission, waiting for the decision for the last five years. Out of 765 cases pending for three years, consumer complaints and 116 appeals are awaiting decision in 648 District Commissions and 1 State Commission. The 1488 cases pending for two years include appeals in 1245 District Commissions and 243 State Commissions. Of the 682 cases pending for a period ranging from six months to one year, 614 are appeal cases in the District Commission and 68 are in the State Commission. Out of 474 cases pending for less than six months, 446 consumer complaints are pending in the District Commissions and 2 State Commissions and 26 appeals are pending in the State Commission as on 31 December 2023.

In the absence of speedy justice, the consumers tend to get disinclined to file cases while the traders, service providers and the manufacturers are encouraged to continue cheating the consumers without any fear of law.