The Consumer Protection Act, provides for inexpensive, speedy redress for consumer disputes through simple procedure.
In Maharashtra, cases drag on for years and procedures becoming complicated due to lack of infrastructure and funds.
Sorry state of affairs
Members of the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission’s Aurangabad bench handle work at the Nagpur bench since its members retired in April 2009. Work of the Aurangabad bench is also affected as its members spend 15 days a month in Nagpur.
At the principal bench of the state commission in Mumbai too, there’s hardly enough room to accommodate 10-12 people in courtroom 2 and its door lets one person in at a time.
“I can’t imagine what will happen, if there a fire breaks out,” said J.M, Baphna, founder president of Consumer Court’s Advocates Association.
Making it more expensive
Against legal provisions, complainants have to provide for postage stamps for serving notices and copies of their complaints to opponents.
“Yes, presently consumers are asked to pay for postage,” said Sudhir Wagh, registrar of the State Commission. “It’s to ensure speedy disposal of complaints.”
Forty-three postal stamp franking machines are gathering dust in district forums and the benches of the state commission. For over 18 months, the machines — each costing Rs. 85,000 — have been dysfunctional.
Now, a new rule requires consumers to present three sets of their complaint, appeal or revision with a certain coloured file folder. “Instead of making it more simple, they are complicating it,” said advocate Dnyanaraj Sant.
Statistics of state commission (September 2009) show there were 18,682 pending cases.
The district forums appear to be disposing of complaints little faster. September end pendency figures show that there were around 17,964 cases pending with 40 district forums.
“Cases of medical negligence are dragged for an average of 10 years,” said consumer lawyer Anand Patwardhan.
The state consumer courts were provided with Rs 40 lakh and odd in December against their requirement of Rs. 1.72 crore, in September end.
Food and Civil Supplies Minister Anil Deshmukh could not be contacted despite numerous attempts.