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Courts should take complaints by senior citizens on priority

More power to the consumer is our motto, whether buying rajma or a watch. Pushpa Girimaji tells you how to get empowered.

india Updated: Jun 04, 2011 23:44 IST

"DontBuy.It" — that's the name of an interesting website that I came across the other day while surfing the net. It says it's an international portal that gives consumers worldwide an opportunity to file and publicise their complaints about products and services.

The website has categorised a wide variety of services under which one can file a complaint and includes even movie theatres, car repair services, restaurants, real estate agents, petrol stations and lawyers.

It's interesting how the internet is slowly empowering consumers. Besides giving consumers an opportunity to share their experiences about products and services, websites such as these (there are quite a few of them) help other consumers' gauge the quality of goods and services in the market and make an informed choice. They also give a good insight into the way different manufacturers and service providers treat consumers and their grievances.

In fact I find it extremely useful to see consumer reviews about products and services before making a purchase and I do believe that such portals will eventually change the way manufacturers and service provides treat consumers and their complaints.

There's another category of complaints that one sees on these portals — complaints against consumer courts constituted under the Consumer Protection Act.

What is really disturbing is the way those who sit in judgement over consumer complaints at some of these forums treat consumers, particularly senior citizens who are fighting for justice. In fact a large number of mails that I get also pertain to this aspect. Here is an example.

Savinder Ahuluwalia: I am a senior citizen of 87 years age and pursuing a case before the consumer forum. The case was filed three years back and has reached the final arguments stage. However, now for about a year it is being postponed.

The case was fixed for May 19, but had to be adjourned as the

advocate representing the opposite party (CGHS) did not come. The President announced that the case be fixed for September 19. When I requested for an early date, he refused to agree and retorted that you will have to face many such postponements with longer durations. He also suggested that I engage an advocate to pursue my case. Can you suggest a way out so that I can get justice during my life time?

Answer: This is very unfortunate and reflects poorly on the consumer courts and those who sit in judgement over complaints.

First and foremost, consumer courts are expected to take up cases filed by senior citizens on a priority basis. The highest consumer court, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, has sent clear instructions to all consumer courts in the country on this. Obviously, the district forum where you have filed your case has failed to follow this.

Second, as per the Consumer Protection Act, the consumer courts are not supposed to give adjournments, except in very rare circumstances. Here again, the forum (like many others around the country) is violating the law that it is supposed to follow.

Three, asking you to hire a lawyer to fight your case is equally condemnable. So also the way the President has treated a senior citizen like you. This is a serious matter and I suggest that you please lodge a complaint with the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission as well as the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission. Also forward a copy to the union ministry of consumer affairs at Krishi Bhawan, New Delhi.

I would also request you to lodge a complaint on the portal for public grievances maintained by the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances.

(http://pgportal.gov.in)