BEFORE filing a complaint before the consumer court, I was under the impression that the procedure is very quick. I have had to go to the forum seven times. The trader against whom I have filed a complaint does not attend the hearing. On that ground, the case is repeatedly adjourned. I am exasperated. What do I do?
If you look at Section 13 of the Consumer Protection Act, under the title "Procedure on admission of complaint", and refer to sub-section(2) (b) : it says: "where the opposite party, on receipt of a copy of the complainant, referred to him under clause (a) denies or disputes the allegations contained in the complaint, or omits or fails to take any action to represent his case within the time given by the District Forum, the District Forum shall proceed to settle the consumer dispute:
(i) On the basis of evidence brought to its notice by the complainant and the opposite party, where the opposite party denies or disputes the allegations contained in the complaint, or
(ii) "Ex-parte on the basis of evidence brought to its notice by the complainant, where the opposite party omits or fails to take any action to represent his case within the time given by the forum."
To put it simply, it means that if the opposite party does not represent the case or appear on the day of hearing, then the forum need not waste the time of the consumer, but go ahead and decide the case on the basis of information brought to its notice by the complainant.
So please quote this to the forum and tell them that they have to follow the procedure provided in the law and proceed ex parte and decide the case.
Again under the same Section, sub-clause 3 (A) says that "Every complaint shall be herd as expeditiously as possible and endeavor shall be made to decide the complaint within a period of three months form the date of receipt of notice by opposite party where the complainant does not require analysis or testing of commodities and within five months, if it requires analysis or testing of commodities.
Provided that no adjournment shall ordinary be granted by the forum unless sufficient cause is shown and the reasons for grant of adjournment have been recorded in writing by the Forum: Provided further that the District Forum shall make such orders as to the costs occasioned by the adjournment as may be provided in the regulations made under this Act:
Provided also that in the event of a complaint being disposed of after the period so specified, the District forum shall record in writing, the reasons for the same at the time of disposing of the said complaint."
So you need to remember that the law mandates that (a) all cases be decided, as far as possible, within three months (b) that ordinarily, no adjournments be given and (c) where given, the court has to record the reasons for it and also award costs to the consumer who has suffered on account of such an adjournment.
The court also has to give reasons in writing for not deciding a case within the stipulated time.
So please bring all this to the notice of the forum and ask them to follow the law and expedite the case. If you happen to be a senior citizen, then the Consumer Protection Regulation mandates that your case be heard expeditiously.
I would also suggest that you bring to the notice of the President of the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, the repeated adjournments being given by the Forum. That will also help.
Why do consumer forums go on giving adjournments, thereby delaying the process of justice. I am one such victim — my case is pending for the last two years.
This is the unfortunate part about the consumer courts, but if consumers become aware of the provisions of the law and start protesting, then consumer courts will be forced to comply. In fact, this movement against the 'adjournment culture' really got a fillip last month, with the new Chief Justice of India Justice R. M. Lodha coming out strongly against it on the very first day in office.
Said he: "The culture of adjournment has to go. Seeking adjournment of scheduled hearing of cases at the drop of a hat must go. Unless a lawyer falls very ill, requests for adjournment must not be made".
Once the Supreme Court inculcates that discipline in the lawyers, it is sure to percolate down to the consumer courts too.