Sixteen years of loss and no gain

Consumer Voice - - Legal Matters -

nce in a while, in the inside pages of a daily news­pa­per, you end up read­ing a small news piece, mostly used by edi­tors as fillers, on ‘house catch­ing fire due to cook­ing-gas leak­age’. Such news sub­tly re­minds you of a few safety mea­sures that you gen­er­ally for­get about while han­dling in­flammables.

At the same time, such news mostly misses out on a sig­nif­i­cant piece of fact – that if you can­not prove the ‘leak­age’, then nei­ther will the gas com­pany com­pen­sate you, nor will you be able to claim any com­pen­sa­tion from the in­sur­ance com­pany against the dam­ages caused due to fire. Un­for­tu­nately, re­cent de­vel­op­ments sug­gest that even con­sumer fo­rums can­not come to your res­cue in such cases.

Sushila Devi is one of the many thou­sand sub­scribers of Hin­dus­tan Petroleum (HP) and has been tak­ing her reg­u­lar sup­ply from the com­pany’s autho­rised agency, NK Cook­ing, in Patna, Bi­har. Ac­cord­ing to her, as part of her rou­tine, in March 2000 she got her sup­ply of sub­sidised gas at Rs 158.40. As al­ways, she fit­ted the same her­self and lit it some­time later. How­ever, in­stead of light­ing like usual, the gas caught fire, the kitchen went up in flames, and the fire burnt Devi’s sari and gave her painful burns.

As­sum­ing that the sup­pli­ers of the faulty, prob­a­bly leak­ing cylin­der were re­spon­si­ble, Devi sued the agency. Sixteen years later, be­fore the high­est author­ity of con­sumer rights, she lost her case and was

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