Who We Are
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.
Current President of SCDRC, Chandigarh
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 State Commission deals with the consumer complaints where the value of goods or services and the compensation if any, claimed exceeds Rs.20 lakhs but upto Rs.one crore, filed by the consumers under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. Under the Act, State Commission acts as Appellate Authority. The two District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forums (District Forums) have original jurisdiction in complaints where the value of goods or services and the compensation, if any, claimed is upto Rs.20 lakhs. These are the quasi-judicial Bodies. Complaints filed by the consumers for redressal of their grievances are heard and disposed of by the President and two Members of the District Forums and similarly complaints and appeal cases are heard and decided by the State Commission comprising the President and two Members
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:
- Adoption of uniform procedure in the hearing of the matters,
- Prior service of copies of documents produced by one party to the opposite parties,
- Speedy grant of copies of documents, &
- 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.
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 State Commission is unable to engage the services of an advocate legal aid is provided by the Commission free of charge.