Consumer Protection as Removal of Public Grievances

Removal of Public Grievances is an important segment in Indian polity and governance for the UPSC civil services syllabus. In this article, you can read about Consumer Protection as Removal of Public Grievances and related concepts for IAS exam.

Recently under the Consumer Protection Act 1986, Central Consumer Protection Council, the State Consumer Protection Councils and the District Forums have been set up for redressal of public grievances.

Consumer Protection Machinery in India

The Consumer Protection Act envisages the setting up of the Consumer Protection Council at the Centre, namely the Central Consumer Protection Council and in all States, the State Consumer Protection Councils. The objects of the councils shall be to promote and protect the rights of the consumers.

1. Central Consumer Protection Council The Central Government has made the consumer protection Rules 1987 which came into force on April 15, 1987. The notification concerning the central council was issued on June 1, 1987.

Composition of the Central Council shall be as follows-

  • The Central Council shall consist of the following 150 members
  • The Minister-in-charge of Consumer Affairs in Central Government shall be the Chairman of the Council.
  • The Minister of State (where he is not holding independent charge) or Deputy Minister in-charge of consumer affairs in the Central Government shall be the Vice-Chairman of the Central Council.
  • The Minister of Food and Civil Supplies or Minister-in¬charge of consumer affairs in states.
  • Eight members of Parliament, five from the Lok Sabha and three from the Rajya Sabha.
  • The Secretary of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
  • Representatives of the Central Government Departments and autonomous organisations concerned with consumer interests not exceeding twenty.
  • Representatives of the consumer or consumer organisation not less than thirty five.
  • Representatives of women not less than ten.
  • Representatives of farmers, trade and industry not more than twenty.
  • Persons capable of representing consumer interests not specified above, not exceeding fifteen.
  • The Secretary in the Department of Civil Supplies shall be the Member-Secretary of the Central Council.
  • The Chairman of the central council shall be the Minister¬ in-charge of Consumer Affairs in the Central Government; and the Secretary in the Department shall be the member-secretary of the central council.

The central council which has wide base and multi-sectional representation on it has to playa vital role in creating consumer awareness and in the development of a wide spread, responsive and responsible consumer movement in the country. The Central Government is empowered to constitute from amongst its members such working groups as it may deem necessary. Every working group so constituted shall perform such functions as assigned to it by the central council. It seems that such working groups may prove to be more useful and effective in dealing with the specific problems allocated to them. The findings of such groups are required to be placed before the council for its consideration. 2. State Consumer Protection Councils The State Governments have been authorised to establish their respective state consumer protection councils. The State Governments have been given a free hand to have such members of the council as they deem necessary. Various state Governments have constituted such councils in their states. Generally speaking, the State Governments have followed the pattern similar to the Central Council It is submitted that in the interest of the uniformity of working of such councils in the whole country, the State Governments may adopt similar rules as are provided under the Consumer Protection Rules, 1987 by the Central Government. Now Section 7(2) of the Act of 1987 provides that the State Council shall consist of following members: . (a) The minister-in-charge of consumer affairs in the State Government who shall be its chairman. (b) Such number of other officials or non-official members representing such interests as may be prescribed by the State Government. The State Councils have to play a vital role in creating consumer awareness and in the development of consumer movement in their states as well as in the country. The objectives of every State Council shall be to promote and protect within the state the rights of the consumer as laid down in the main Act. 3. District Forum Each district of the state shall have a Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum known as District Forum. Each District Forum is to be established by the State Government. The State Governments have laid down in their respective Consumer Protection Rules that the District Forum shall be located at the headquarter of the District. The: District Forum shall have the same powers as are vested in a Civil Court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, while trying a suit. Each District Forum shall consist of A person who is, or has been, or is qualified to be a District Judge, who shall be its President. Two other members, who shall be persons of ability, integrity and standing and have adequate knowledge or experience of, or have shown capacity in dealing with problems relating to economics, administration and one of whom shall be a woman. These members are appointed by the State Government on the recommendation of a Selection Committee consisting of the following: The President of the State Commission – Chairman. (ii) Secretary, Law Department of the State – Member. (iii) Secretary-in-charge of the Department dealing with consumer affairs in the State – Member. Each member of the District Forum will hold office for a term of 5 years or upto the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier and shall not be eligible for re-appointment. The salary or honorarium and other allowances payable to and the other terms and conditions of service of the members of the District Forum shall be such as may be decided by the State Government. The Consumer Protection Act and relevant Rules made there¬ under contain many provisions to secure the independence of the District Forums. The terms and conditions of the services of the President and the members of the Forum cannot be varied to their disadvantage during their tenure of office. In order to ensure the impartial working of the President and the members, each of them is required, before appointment to make an undertaking that he does not, or, he shall not hold any office of profit. It is also important to note that the procedure for the removal of the President or member, prevents the State Government from acting on any extraneous ground or arbitrarily

Jurisdiction of the District Forum (1) Subject to the other provisions of this Act, the District Forum shall have jurisdiction to entertain complaints where the value of the goods or services and the compensation, if any, claimed does not exceed rupees five lakhs. (2) A complaint shall be instituted in a District Forum within the local limits of its jurisdiction
LOK ADALAT Lok Adalats which are voluntary agencies at present are monitored and overseen by State Legal Aid . It has proved to be a successful alternative forum for resolution of disputes through conciliatory methods. The Legal Services Authority Act, 1987 has been enacted which will provide a statutory footing to the legal aid movement. Under the Act, there shall be legal service authorities at the Central, State and district levels. These authorities will have their own funds. Further, the Lok Adalats, which are at present informal agencies, will acquire statutory authority. Every award of the Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be a decree of a civil court or order of any other court or tribunal and shall be final and binding on all the parties to the dispute.

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