Decided on November 21,2016

State Of U P And Ors Appellant
All U P Consumer Protection Bar Association Respondents


D Y CHANDRACHUD,J. - (1.) The deficiency of infrastructure in the adjudicatory fora constituted under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 has led to several directions of this Court in the course of the proceedings in this case. On 14 January 2016, this Court constituted a Committee presided over by Mr Justice Arijit Pasayat, a former judge of this Court, to examine : (i) the infrastructural requirements of the State Commissions, deficiencies in infrastructure and remedial measures; (ii) the position of vacancies of members at the national, state and district level; (iii) the need for additional Benches at the national, state and district level; (iv) conditions of eligibility for appointment of non-judicial members; (v) administrative powers which have been or should be conferred on the presiding officers of the state and district fora; (vi) service conditions including pay scales governing the presiding officers and members; (vii) requirements of staff; (viii) creation of a separate cadre of staff at the national, state and district level; and (ix) other relevant issues. The Committee was requested, while examining these issues, to submit its recommendations. The Committee has since the commencement of its work in February 2016 inquired extensively into the matters referred to it and has made an assessment of the prevailing conditions in the States of Orissa, Maharashtra, Punjab, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Jammu and Kashmir, Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Jharkhand. The Committee has also analysed the prevailing position at the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, as well as the State Commission in New Delhi.
(2.) The facts which have emerged from the interim report submitted by the Committee on 17 October 2016 constitute a sobering reflection of how far removed reality lies from the goals and objectives which Parliament had in view while enacting the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. The Committee has observed that the fora constituted under the enactment do not function as effectively as expected due to a poor organizational set up, grossly inadequate infrastructure, absence of adequate and trained manpower and lack of qualified members in the adjudicating bodies. Benches of the state and district fora sit, in many cases for barely two or three hours every day and remain non-functional for months due to a lack of coram. Orders are not enforced like other orders passed by the civil courts. The state governments have failed to respond to the suggestions of the Committee for streamlining the state of affairs.
(3.) The pathetic state of infrastructure is made evident in the following findings in the report of the Committee : "The Committee, during its visits to states, has found that there are no proper court-rooms with lights and fans, chairs and tables. The condition of Chambers of the Presiding Members is pathetic. They do not have adequate or trained staff. They do not have stenographers for taking dictations. At some Consumer Fora, there are no peons to retrieve the files from the Record Room. The Record-Rooms are, also, either too small and have no almirah, shelves or compactors to keep the files. The files are kept in open and get misplaced or eaten by termites. The Central Government provides funds for construction of the new buildings, carrying out additions/alterations/renovations of existing buildings and grant for acquiring non-building assets such as furnitures, office equipments etc. The State Governments have to provide the land for construction of new buildings for the Consumer Fora. The Committee has noted that the State Governments have not been quick enough to allot land for construction of Consumer Fora in their respective States. It has, also, come to the notice of the Committee that the State Governments ­ responsible for timely filling up of the vacancies of the Presidents and Members in the State Commissions and District Fora of the states, have failed to keep the time limit. The Committee has come across instances where the State Governments have taken upto 7/10 months to approve the recommendations of the Selection Committee". The quality of presiding members, especially of non-judicial members at the state and district levels is poor. One of the reasons is that the remuneration which is being paid to non-judicial members of consumer fora varies from state to state and is too meager to attract qualified talent. Most of the non-judicial members are not even capable of writing or dictating small orders. At certain places non-judicial members act in unison against the presiding officer, while passing orders contrary to law, damaging the reputation of the adjudicating body. Presidents, as a result, prefer a situation where such non-judicial members absent themselves from work if only so that judicial work can be carried out by the presiding judge impartially and objectively. Many non-judicial members do not maintain punctuality and others attend to work sporadically once or twice a week. The Committee has observed that that the problem lies in ­ (i) absence of proper remuneration; (ii) appointment of former judicial officers who lack motivation and zeal; (iii) appointment of practicing lawyers as presiding officers of district fora; and (iv) political and bureaucratic interference in appointments. Many of the non-judicial members attend to the place of work only to sign orders which have been drafted by the presiding officer. ;

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