Tuesday, March 25, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Consumer fora get teeth

I endorse the views expressed in the editorial “Consumer is the king” (March 22, 2003). This is timely and proves The Tribune’s concern for consumers. I agree that the amendment to the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, is historic. The Atal Behari Vajpayee Government deserves all appreciation for having taken this bold initiative to protect and safeguard the rights and interests of the consumers.

The amendment has several unique features. First, hereafter consumer courts will have to decide the admissability of a complaint within 21 days. This is expected to reduce the agonising delay in the admission of cases. Secondly, the time-limit of three months to dispose off a case is welcome as it will help save the time, money and energy of the consumers. Thirdly, the amended Act prohibits adjournments. Over the years, we know how these consumer courts, following the footsteps of the judicial courts, have been adjourning cases at the drop of a hat for one reason or the other. Fourthly, in case a consumer court feels that an adjournment has become necessary due to unavoidable circumstances, it will have to award costs to the complainant for the inconvenience caused to him/her. Fifthly, the district consumer fora have been given a place of pride and honour in the entire scheme of things. They are now empowered to issue interim orders. And finally, as an extension to this point, the amendment envisages that if the opposite party fails to comply with an interim order, the consumer court can attach his/her party.

However, despite all these advantages in the amended Act, as a very senior retired government civil surgeon having put in 32 years of service, I feel the Union Government should not have overlooked the plight of some doctors who are dragged to consumer courts unnecessarily for no rhyme or reason. Some steps should have been taken to protect the interests of sincere, honest and responsible doctors, lawyers and shopkeepers as well.


It would have been better if the Government incorporated some suitable measures to discourage frivolous complaints. Action against those filing false charges against doctors or lawyers should have been included in the recent amendment. What is needed is deterrent punishment including imprisonment to false complainants, not just a fine of Rs 10,000 as in the existing Act.

Dr U.S.BANSAL, Chandigarh

Reverse solatium

Apropos of your editorial “Consumer is the king”, the latest amendment to the Consumer Protection Act does not propose any penalty for false or unnecessary complaints. When the original Act was drafted, it was meant for traders and the maximum penalty for filing a false complaint was only Rs 10,000. Later, medical services were also included and the complaints started claiming the compensation by lakhs while the only deterrent to them remained at Rs 10,000, that too, very rarely imposed, if at all.

The medical fraternity has been facing this ordeal with the resultant loss of valuable man-hours and mental harassment affecting their performance on one hand and distorting the doctor-patient relationship and increase in the cost of treatment on the other. In about 95 per cent of the complaints, it was found that doctors had been unnecessarily dragged to the consumer fora. In some of the cases where compensation is granted, there are instances where judgements have been passed in the highly technical complaints involving complex medical problems without the guidance or assistance of specialist in the relevant field by the state and district consumer courts, contrary to the guidelines issued by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission. There the doctors are at the mercy of non-technical members or judicial officers.

There have been cases where the parties are asked to approach civil court after years of trial by consumer courts on the ground that the matter is too complex to be taken up by the respective consumer court. To compound it further, the enhancement in the powers of the district consumer forum and state consumer commission will further lure more complaints, true or false. The need of the hour is to amend the law so that a reasonable reverse compensation is paid to the respondent in case of unsuccessful complaints.

Dr H.S. SAINI, Hoshiarpur

Cheating consumers

To save consumers from being cheated by gimmick packaging, the Union Government should modify III Schedule (Rule 5) of Standards of Weights & Measures (Packaged Commodities Rules 1977) in true metric spirit to pack all commodities in packs of either 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 gms or mltrs, and then in 1, 2, 5 or multiples of 5 kgs or ltrs only, abolishing the many categories in the schedule at present. Items to be packed in numbers may be packed in units of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000 and multiples of 1000 only. Manufacturers often misuse so many categories for deviation like ‘Horlicks’ once did. The Directorate of Weights & Measures is involved in unnecessari litigation for such lacunae in the rules.

The idea will also make consumers compare prices of similar products of different companies just by shelf-glance. Presently shopkeepers often cheat consumers by putting a sticker on ‘price per pack’ like at an item weighing say 500 mltrs. Instead they may charge in this case for 1 ltr which is also printed on the same commodity as ‘price per unit’! Items like soap-cakes weighing just 75 gms are packed with extra paper-card to look like 100 gms soap-cake.

Even commonly advertised medicines deviate from systematic packing in name of being drugs. It is unfair that some reputed drug companies pack just eight cough lozenges per strip because consumers compare price per strip. Therefore even medicines should also be packed according to the suggested formula unless special exemption is sought from the Union Health Ministry to pack in some other unit/s for dose-wise administration.


Waiting for the dream

Think of a government department and you at once visualise red tape, delays and more delays. We were having nightmares dealing with BSNL, specially when the phone gets out of order. When my husband applied for a Reliance India Mobile, he was hoping to get a refreshing dose of efficiency.

Calls all over the country at 40 paise per minute. Surf the internet through Reliance World. Wow! He was really excited about it. In his enthusiasm, he applied for a coloured handset thinking that he will surf the net and see the world in colour. He promptly gave a cheque for Rs 20,000 (much against my protests) for the membership and the coloured set and 12 post-dated cheques of Rs 1,800 each as rental at Rs 600 per month for the next three years. He applied vide CAF No 2032461088 dated February 22, 2003.

The dealers said that as there was a delay in provisioning of the coloured handsets, initially, they will give a black and white handset and later replace it with a coloured one as and when available at no extra cost. However, it is over a month and even after innumerable trips to the Reliance Infocomm, Jalandhar office, we are still waiting for the dream to start.

They have since supplied the handsets to all those who had applied for black and white ones but they are dragging their feet in giving us the temporary black and white handset. First they said that they cannot give a new handset and will give a service handset. Then they said that they will clarify from their head office and give the handset. After some time they said that when the coloured handset is received it will have a different number. Whenever my husband goes to them, he is told to meet them some other day. Recently, he was told to meet “tomorrow” so that they will have a clear picture.

And when he did meet them the next day, they told him that the handset was not available and that he should hold on for a few days. Now they say that they are trying to ascertain if the same number can be given once the coloured handset is delivered. Consequently, they have asked us to hold on for a few more days. This has been going on for past two weeks. Alas! Dreams are dreams and never come to life. “Ek Sapna Tha” is really a sapna for us. Will it remain a dream?

PREMA TRIPATHI, Jalandhar Cantt.

Border retreat drama

The border retreat ceremony at Wagah Border Post has degenerated from a proper military ceremony to a high-pitch drama retreat to please people who watch the function from both sides of the international border. This is certainly not the aim of the retreat ceremony. The actions of the personnel taking part in the ceremony should be dignified, immaculate and as per the norms prescribed. Such ceremonies are sacrosanct and have to follow a set procedure before the flags of the two countries are lowered.

It would be an insult to the national flags of both countries if the military personnel gesticulate, make faces and show fiery eyes while the procedure of retreat is being carried out. I appeal to the authorities concerned to sort out this issue or unilaterally start following the proper drill and procedure. Hope good sense will prevail on the other side also.

Col. KARAMINDER SINGH (retd), Patiala

Name it Tinab

Punjab is a state, meaning land of five rivers. But it has actually only three rivers. So should we not name it as Tinab (land of three rivers)? Our language is known as Punjabi but since we are a land of only three rivers we should rename our mother tongue as Tinabi with Gurmukhi as its script.

We are the only state (of course along with Haryana) which does not have its own capital. A state without capital has no meaning. Chandigarh should be divided into Punjab (now Tinab) and Haryana in the ratio of 60: 40. It is likely that the capital complex of Legislative Assembly, Secretariat and High Court, being closer to Haryana border, will go to that state. No problem, we shall get some important sectors which include Panjab University, PGI, Sector 17 shopping complex and Bus Stand.

We shall build our own capital complex either in SAS Nagar or at a central place to be selected later. If a newly formed state like Chhattisgarh can make its own new capital city, Punjab (now Tinab) can always do the same.

Lt-Col M.M.S. KANG (retd), Ludhiana

Disciplined driving

“Making accidents happen” by H. Kishie Singh has tried to lay the blame for accidents squarely on the radio and the cellphone. He has missed out the most important factor i.e. personal discipline in driving.

A driver has no business to be on the road if he cannot seal himself from extraneous influence and concentrate on his driving.

The second factor is the care and convenience of other road users, which is conspicuous by its absence in the present-day drivers on wheels.

Lt Col K.S. GREWAL (retd), Chandigarh


Film on Mayawati!

This refers to the news item “Film on Mayawati” (March 17). It is a pity that leaders like Ms Mayawati have been spending huge public funds on their self-glorification with impunity. A couple of months ago, she celebrated her 47th birthday in such style where this “Dalit Ke Beti” had spent over Rs 10 crores out of public money. One can well imagine the lavish spending on this function where a 51-kg cake, over 1,00,000 ladoos, 60 quintals of marigold flowers and about 5,000 bouquets were used to celebrate the so-called “Swabhiman Diwas” while the life for the common man in the street has become a nightmare. Despite severe criticism from all sections of society, she is marching forward to carry out many more plans of self-Swabhiman.

Now, as this news in question suggests, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister is coming on the silver screen through a fabulous, big budget film “Maya Madam” very shortly. There is no need to mention here how funds will be raised for this film. One can take the clue from the latest video-tape episode.

Sadly, we are witnessing complete degeneration in morals and principles. Our leaders seem to be much more interested in self-glorification and how to win elections rather than striving for the welfare of the poor who voted them to power. Ms Mayawati has made an “Ambedkar Park” at a cost of over Rs 100 crore for the downtrodden sections of society so that they can sit there and listen to her uncouth speeches conveniently.



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