Timely justice

Pushpa Girimaji

The recent changes in the consumer protection regulations seek to check inordinate delays, says Pushpa Girimaji

TO usher in uniformity and simplicity in the procedures being adopted by the consumer courts around the country, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has recently notified the Consumer Protection Regulations, 2005.

The regulations say that the complaints filed by senior citizens, widows, physically challenged persons or those suffering from serious ailments be disposed of on a priority. It also says that the forum will give proper courtesy to complainants who appear in person and provide separate accommodation for their convenience.

Endeavour will be made by the parties and their counsel to avoid the use of provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. It also stipulates that the orders of the forum will be as short and precise and unnecessary long quotations from the judgments of higher courts will be avoided. The final order should be passed within 15 days of the conclusion of the arguments, the regulations say.

It also provides for authorised representative of the complainant appearing before the forum. The regulations stipulate that the arguments before the court should be brief and to the point. If a party is represented by a counsel, it will be mandatory to file a brief of written arguments two days before the matter is fixed for arguments.

The amended Consumer Protection Act discourages adjournments and says that if given, the consumer court should record in writing, the reasons for it and also award costs to the complainant who is affected by such adjournment.

It goes on to specify that where an adjournment is given, the cost awarded to the complainant in such a case shall not be less than Rs 500. Where a complainant asks for an adjournment, he or she may also be burdened with costs, unless sufficient cause is shown for seeking such adjournment. However, where the complainant is asked to pay, the cost imposed may be less than Rs 500, but in no case less than Rs 100, the regulation says.

They also specify informal settings for redressal halls so that they do not give the appearance of a regular court of law. It suggests that in the hall in which the consumer forum will hear the parties, the dais may not be kept more than 30 cm in height than the place earmarked for the parties to occupy. The chairs used by the president and members of the forum need not have high backs and their clothes should be simple and should not give an appearance of a judge of a high court or a district court.

It provides that where there are any defects in the filing of the complaint, appeal or revision petition, such defects shall be recorded and the parties shall be given 15 days time to remove the defects.

The regulations stipulate that the district forum shall send to the state commission, a periodic monthly report on the disposal of cases. Similarly, the state commission shall submit such reports to the national commission. And the apex commission can also call for such information from the district forum or the state commission.