How It Has Worked
The 1986 law proved to be a landmark for consumer protection in India as it set up consumer courts in each district of the country along with a state consumer court in each state and a national consumer court in Delhi. These courts have done remarkable work over the past three decades. They have handled about 45.66 lakh cases since inception, bulk of which were at the district level. Of these, 41.66 lakh cases have been disposed of, which is a disposal rate of nearly 91 per cent. About four lakh cases remain pending at the national level. Despite the efficient disposal of cases, if a case is contested, it may take about three to five years at the district level, particularly in metro regions, with again about three to five years at appeals in state and national levels. A hotly contested case could drag on for 10 to 15 years due to first and second appeals. The litigation can be long-drawn and expensive and can wear out any individual fighting a company.
There are five highlights in the Consumer Protection Bill 2015 which are being deliberated upon by the government, before its revised form is re-introduced in Parliament’s forthcoming winter session. These five highlights are going to make the law much stronger, mature and sophisticated as compared to the Bill passed in 1986. One can say that much water has flown down the Yamuna since 1986, when this law was first enacted. The 2015 version will replace the old Act of 1986 lock, stock and barrel while retaining all essential features but making significant changes and additions to make it stronger.