Jurisdiction of Consumer Courts Part 3

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The judicial system set up under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, consists of consumer courts at the district level, state level and national level. These are known as District Forum, State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (State commission) and National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (National Commission). Any individual consumer or association of consumers can lodge a complaint in writing with the District, State or National level forum, depending on the value goods and claim for compensation, if any.

The district forum has the jurisdiction to deal with all complaints where the value of the goods or services or the compensation claimed does not exceed Rs 20 lakhs. The State Commissions are empowered to deal with cases where the value or amount involved exceed Rs 20 lakh but does not exceed Rs One Crore. The State commissions also deal with appeals the against orders of the District Forum. The National commission has the juistisdiction to take up all claims and grievances exceeding the value of Rs. One crore. It has also appellate jurisdiction, that is, power to deal with appeals against orders passed by State Commissions. An aggrieved party can appeal to the Supreme Court against the orders of the National Commission.

Image of Jurisdiction of Consumer Courts

Image of Jurisdiction of Consumer Courts

Image of Jurisdiction of Consumer Courts

Procedure for Redressal of Consumer Grievances

As stated in the previous section consumer complaints can be filed by an individual consumer or association of consumers. The complaint may be filed before the District Forum for the district where the cause of action has arisen or where the opposite party resides, or before the State Commission notified by the State Government or the union territory, or it can be filed before the National Commission at New Delhi.

There is a nominal fee charged for filing a complaint. The complaint may be filed by the complainant or his/her authorised agent in person, or it may be sent by post. Five copies of the complaint are generally required to be filed along with the following information.

  • Name, description and address of the complainant;

  • Name, description and address of the opposite party or parties, as the case may be;

  • Facts relating to the complaint and when and where it arose; iv) Documents, if any, in support of the allegations contained in the complaint (like cash memo, receipt, etc.) The nature of relief which the complainant is seeking.

The complaint should be signed by the complainant or his/her authorised agent. It has to be addressed to the president of the District Forum or State Commission or National Commission. A complaint is required to be filed within a period of two years from the date on which the cause of action arose. If there is delay and it is excused by the concerned Forum/Commission, the reason must be on record.

Complaints are expected to be decided, as far as possible, within three months from the date of notice received by the opposite parties. For those complaints which require laboratory analysis or testing of products, the period is extended to five months.

Depending on the nature of complaint and relief sought by the consumer and facts of the case, the redressed Forum/Commission may order one or more of the following reliefs:

  • Removal of defect in goods/deficiency in services.

  • Replacement of the goods/restoration of the service.

  • Refund of the price paid for goods or excess charge paid for service.

  • Compensation for loss or injury suffered.

Role of Non-Governmental Organisations

Non- Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are those associations of people which aim at promoting the welfare of the public without any profit motive. They are voluntary bodies having a constitution and rules of their own, and are free from government interference. They depend on donations and partly on government assistance. NGOs dealing with consumer problems are known as consumer associations or consumer organisations.

The role of NGOs has become increasingly more significant over the last two decades. There are now more than 800 such organisations in India. These organisations are registered under the Societies Registration Act or the Companies Act or as Charitable Trusts.

NGOs have undertaken various activities as part of the consumer movement. They perform several functions, like

  • Create awareness about consumer rights and educate the general public about consumer problems and remedies through seminars, workshops and training programmes.

  • Provide legal aid to consumers by way, of assistance in seeking legal remedy.

  • Undertake advocacy of consumers’ point of view as representative members of consumer protection councils and others official boards.

  • Arrange comparative testing of consumer products through their own testing apparatus or accredited laboratories so as to evaluate the relative qualities of competing brands and publish the test results for the benefit of consumers to become informed buyers.

  • Publish periodicals and journals to disseminate information among readers about consumer problems, legal reporting and other emerging matters of interest. Most of these periodicals do not accept advertisements from business firms.

  • Make suggestions and recommend steps which government authorities should consider in policy making and administrative measures adopted in the interest of consumers.

  • Some NGOs have successful used Public Interest Litigation (PIL) to enforce consumer rights in several cases. In other words, NGOs have filed cases in law courts in the interest of the general public, not for any individual.

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