Evaluation of Efficacy of the Consumer Disputes Redressal Agencies in India

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1 Evaluation of Efficacy of the Consumer Disputes Redressal Agencies in India Prof. Prakash N. Chaudhary Vice Principal, Associate Professor& Head, Dept. of Business Laws, Ness Wadia College of Commerce, Pune Contact No.: ABSTRACT Consumerism is getting momentum in India. The enactment of Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is the landmark legislation to protect the consumers. The paper attempts to evaluate efficacy of the Consumer Disputes Redressal Agencies in India. Though these agencies are striving hard to dispose the cases, still large number of cases is pending in Consumer Courts in India. Certain immediate measures through improvement in existing functioning of these agencies and by evolving new model or alternative by using information technology tools are needed. All stake holders should be proactive to resolve the consumer problems so as to make business world the place of worth trading and transacting. Key Words: Consumerism, consumer forums, grievance settlement machinery, justice, pendency of cases Introduction: The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is enacted to protect the interests of consumers in a better manner. It gives power to helpless consumer to fight for his rights as against powerful business organizations. The Act intends to give simple, speedy and inexpensive redressal mechanism to the consumers for resolving their grievances. The Consumer Protection Act has liberalized rigid procedural requirements and introduced simple and easy methods of access to justice. Even a simple letter addressed to the consumer forum draws enough attention to initiate legal action. Even one can plead his own case in the consumer forum without even engaging a lawyer. Knocking the doors of civil courts and trying to get justice was not a simple task for an ordinary consumer. Huge pendency of cases in the civil courts would have created agony in the minds consumers and justice delayed justice denied would have become unpleasant truth of our legal system. Consumers Disputes Redressal Agencies in India: The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 seeks to protect the interests of consumers and tries to prevent exploitation of consumers. It provides three tier machinery which consists of District Consumers Disputes Redressal Forum, State Consumers Disputes Redressal Commission and National Consumers Disputes Redresssal Commission. The most important feature of the Consumer Protection Act, is the provision for setting up machinery for resolution of consumers disputes. This quasi-judicial machinery is generally called as consumer courts. This three tier machinery is at National, State and District level. The National Consumers Disputes Redressal Commission (i.e. National Commission), is the apex authority situated at Delhi. In each State, State Consumers Disputes Redressal Commission (i.e. State Commissions), and in each District, District Consumers Disputes Redressal Forum (i.e. District Forum) have the responsibility to dispense justice to the consumers.though the Consumer Protection Act enacted in the year 1986,for actual functioning of consumers fora started in the year ISSN : Chronicle of the Neville Wadia Institute of Management Studies & Research 6

2 Statement of Problem: Consumer Protection Act, guarantees speedy, in expensive and simple justice to the consumers through consumers disputes redressal agencies. It was expected that through this alternative disputes redressal mechanism, consumer avail justice. Hence, it is pertinent to analyze, whether this alternative quasi-judicial justice delivery system for consumer is successful in its endeavor. Success of Consumer Protection Act is dependent upon its effective implementation. 25 years is the reason able period or a right period for investigating present status of consumerism in India. Objectives: 1) To analyze the number of cases filed / disposed-off at National, State and District Level. 2) To compare the efficacy of these forums among themselves. Research Methodology: The method used for this study is investigative in nature and it examines the performance of consumer disputes redressal agencies functioning at National, State and District Level in India. The objective of the present research is to analyze the number of cases filed / disposed and compare their performance of such forums at National, State and District level. The study is based on secondary data collected from Annual reports, journals, books published by various institutions / government and through websites, articles etc. Analysis and interpretation: The Consumer Disputes Redressal Agencies created by Consumer Protection Act in India have proven to be effective in disposing of thousands of cases with few legal formalities and trying to lead towards the well-founded consumer jurisprudence in India. Besides substantial disposal of cases by consumer fora, the huge backlog of pending cases exists and it has become a matter of concern for Indian legal system to have even further improvement in the existing system and if necessary to think about even alternatives for speedy disposal of consumer cases. Analysis of cases filed / disposed at various consumer disputes redressal commission: Table A Statement of Filed / Disposed-off / Pending in the National Commission and State Commissionss (Update on ) Sr. No. Name of State filed since inception Disposed-off Since Inception Pending % of Disposal As on National Commission Andhra Pradesh A & N Islands Arunachal Pradesh Assam Bihar Chandigarh Chhattisgarh Daman & Diu and Delhi Delhi Goa Gujarat ISSN : Chronicle of the Neville Wadia Institute of Management Studies & Research 7

3 12 Haryana Himachal Pradesh Jammu & Kashmir Jharkhand Karnataka Kerala Lakshadweep Madhya Pradesh Maharashtra Manipur Meghalaya Mizoram Nagaland Orissa Pondicherry Punjab Rajasthan Sikkim Tamilnadu Tripura Uttar Pradesh Uttaranchal West Bengal Total Table B Statement of filed/disposed-off/pending in District Fora (Update on ) Sr. No. Name of State filed since inception Disposedoff Since Inception Pending % of Disposa l As on 1 Andhra Pradesh A & N Islands Arunachal Pradesh Assam Bihar Chandigarh Chhattisgarh Daman & Diu and Delhi Delhi Goa Gujarat Haryana Himachal Pradesh Jammu & Kashmir ISSN : Chronicle of the Neville Wadia Institute of Management Studies & Research 8

4 15 Jharkhand Karnataka Kerala Lakshadweep Madhya Pradesh Maharashtra Manipur Meghalaya Mizoram Nagaland Orissa Pondicherry Punjab Rajasthan Sikkim Tamilnadu Tripura Uttar Pradesh Uttaranchal West Bengal Total The table A shows the total number of cases filed in the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission of India till is The Table categorically shows that 87.03% of the cases filed since inception of NCDRC of India have been disposed-offf and only 12.07% are pending. So far as State Commissions are concerned, the total number of cases filed in the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission of India till is 6,32,333. It is clear from this table that 85.54% of the cases filed since inception of the State Commissions have been disposed-off and 14.46% are pending. Though, the State Commissions have disposed 5,40,908 cases so far, still 91,425 cases are pending. The total number of State Commissions is 34 and disposing-off, these remaining pending cases will be a challenging task for all State Commissions. The table B reveals that total number of case filed in the District Consumer Disputes Redressal fora of India is 33,98,031 till and it shows that 92.24% of cases filed since inception of these fora have been disposed-off and only 7.76% are pending. Hence comparatively the District forum s performance is better than National and State Commissions. The Table B exhibits the cases filed and disposed-off at the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forums: From this table it is observed that Haryana ranked first with 99.19% and Mizoram ranked last with 81.33% on the basis of disposal rate of the cases. Table C National Commission State Commission District Forum Particulars No. of % No. of % No. of disposed-off since inception % % % pending % % % Total cases filed since inception % % % ISSN : Chronicle of the Neville Wadia Institute of Management Studies & Research 9 %

5 Table C shows the juxtaposition of cases filed / disposed-off and pending in all these three forums. It is clear that rate of disposed cases is higher in State Commissions than National Commission and District Forums. If we take total of all pending cases before these three-level consumer disputes redressal agencies in India, it comes to be 3,01,448. Table D Particulars No. of % disposed-off since inception 37,51, % pending 3,01,448, 7.44% Total cases filed since inception 40,53, % That means average, disposal of consumer cases in National, State and District level commissions/ forum is 92.56%. Hence though all the machinery has worked well, still challenge remains to be able to dispose of more than 3 lakhs of cases. Lack of awareness of CP Act among consumer, inadequate staff, non-appointment of Presidents and members on-time, lawyers delay tactics, huge number of filing of cases are the few probable reasons of pendency of cases in there consumer courts. Suggestions: 1) Besides school and colleges, consumer awareness programmes be organized for common man through non-governmental organization. 2) Pro-active efforts be made to sensitize rural consumers through various means of communication channels. 3) Policy makers, traders and consumers should be brought on the common platform to exchange information of mutual interest for better co-ordination and consensus on debatable issues. 4) Simplified procedure for speedy disposal is required to be evolved. On-line disputes redressal mechanism through these consumer courts be evolved to delivery speedy and inexpensive justice. 5) Consumer Protection Councils are required to be strengthened so as to protect the rights of the consumers. 6) Government can play significant role by providing adequate infrastructure for forums, online support, timely appointment of staff and allocating enough funds for the consumer protection. 7) Business organization should design their in-house grievance settlement machinery before consumer moves consumer forums. 8) Consumers organization / groups / associations should conduct and represent cases on behalf of consumer before such forums and guide them at every stage without charging fees so as to avail justice to poor consumers. 9) The government should encourage such consumer organizations by awarding cash prizes or awards for their dedicated work for the cause of consumers rights. 10) The huge number of pending cases be disposed of by organizing lok-adalats quite frequently and the circuit benches of these forums be established at convenient places so as to take justice to the doors of the litigant-consumers. Conclusion: It requires serious attention towards huge pendency of cases before consumer disputes redressal agencies in India and to make provision of further improvement in the procedure and their functioning. Pro-active involvement of government, positive and innovative approach of schools, Colleges, Training Institutes, NGOs, the electronic and print media would help to improve the present state of affairs. Citizens Character and code of conduct for the manufacturing or service providers should be an integral part of functioning of any business entity. It is necessary to have total commitment to the ISSN : Chronicle of the Neville Wadia Institute of Management Studies & Research 10

6 consumers cause and social responsiveness to consumers needs so as to make business world a better place for trading and transacting. References: 1) Niraj Kumar (Dr.), Consumer Protection Law and Practice (2012), Himalaya Publishing House, Mumbai. 2) Annual Survey Report , Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Government of India. 3) At website: (GARJMBS-ISSN: ), Delhi, As on 7 th February, ****** ISSN : Chronicle of the Neville Wadia Institute of Management Studies & Research 11

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