Despite having maximum institutions of complaints along with the highest disposal rate across the country, consumer disputes redressal forum as well as commission in Chandigarh has failed to set up the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) even after almost 30 years of the enactment of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), 1986.
Though the Act makes the setting up of the CPC mandatory, it is yet to be established. As per the Act, the council is to be in place at the central, state and district levels for the avowed purpose of promoting and protecting the rights of the consumers.
Pankaj Chandgothia, president of the Chandigarh Consumer Courts Bar Association, said: “Initially, the provisions were not compulsory, but the Consumer Protection (Amendment) Act, 2002, made the creation of councils mandatory by incorporating Section 8A, which states that the government (UT administration) concerned shall establish a council to be known as the District Consumer Protection Council (DCPC) for every district by notification.”
As per the provisions, the DCPC will consist of members such as the deputy commissioner of the district who will be the chairman and such number of other official and non-official members representing such interests as may be prescribed by the government.
As per the Act, the council will meet as and when necessary but not less than two meetings to be held every year and the members will meet at such a time and place within the district as the chairman may think fit and will observe such procedures with regard to the transaction of its business as may be prescribed.
Chandgothia said: “The amendment was made effective from March 15, 2003 (World Consumer Day), but even after more than 10 years of the amendment, the UT administration continues to ignore the legislative intent adversely affecting the consumer protection movement in this area.” He further alleged that in the absence of these statutory councils, private consumer protection associations were mushrooming, some of which were exploiting the consumers on the pretext of guidance.
The food, supplies and consumer affairs department is responsible for consumer protection.The department seems to be confined only to food and supplies and consumer affairs have taken a back seat.
The provision of setting up the council was to put in place a mechanism for defining standards and setting benchmarks for consumer protection. The council is required to lay down guidelines for traders and shopkeepers to follow and thus approaching courts for redressal of consumer complaints should be last resort.