Soon, rat­ing cards for con­sumer fo­rums

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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.

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