Soon, rating cards for consumer forums
In an effort to ensure that consumer forums work efficiently, the government is planning to bring them under public scrutiny. The government has finalized a mechanism for giving rate card to forums based on their scores, calculated keeping in mind speed of disposal of cases, period of adjournment, number of adjournments, and average time taken for admission.
Consumers, activists and NGOs, members of consumer forums, bar councils and advocates will soon get details of the sector and year wise cases filed in these forums. Even annual disposal of cases, adjournments and pendency details of each court will be available in public domain. For this purpose, an online dashboard is being developed by Computerization and Computer Networking of Consumer Fora in Country (CONFONET) and it will contain all the information. The dashboard will also contain details on timely disposal of cases and details on applications pending for execution of orders.
Indiscriminate adjournments by district forums have been identified as one of the main causes of harassment of consumers. This is one of several steps that the government is taking to revamp the consumer forums, more so after the prime minister had asked the consumer affairs ministry to strengthen these forums and had defined them as a ‘window to justice for the poor.’
One of the major amendments being proposed is to select the members of district forums through a written exam and personal interview by the state public service commissions. This will put an end to the present practice of politicians and even housewives becoming members. Another major change mooted is to ensure that district forums have to admit complaints within 21 days.
There are also proposals for uniform salary and perks for members across states and also allowing consumers to file cases from their place of residence. Moreover, to ensure that decisions of lower forums are respected and complied with, there is a provision that the opposite party can challenge a forum's order in higher forum or court only after depositing 50 per cent of the penalty.
India Post cannot be prosecuted for lost parcels: Consumer Commission
The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), India’s top consumer court, has reversed orders by lower foras that had awarded damages in lieu of a registered post that was lost in transit by India Post.
Presiding member Justice JM Malik set aside the orders of Chhattisgarh district forum and state consumer commission after holding that India Post could not be seen as a provider of commercial postal services but as an arm of the government. As the government could not be hauled to consumer courts, the postal department also could not be made to pay for misplacing registered posts, he ruled.
“Services rendered by the Post Office are merely statutory and there is no contractual liability,” NCDRC said quoting an earlier order of the commission. Malik pointed out that while courier companies could be sought damages from if they lost packages and letters, the same rule was not applicable for India Post as it was not a ‘commercial entity’.
“By establishing the Post Offices and running the postal service, the central government performs a governmental function and the government does not engage in commercial transaction with the sender of the article through post,” the order noted.
The case was filed by Amitabh Srivastava, an advocate from Korba in Chhattisgarh, after India Post lost a registered notice he had sent to a manager of an insurance company.
Both the district forum as well as the Chhattisgarh State Commission had awarded Rs 6,000 as damages and costs to Srivastava and ruled against India Post. However, the NCDRC reversed the orders and cancelled the damages that were awarded.