Taking note of the infrastructural inadequacy in consumer courts across the country coupled with "apathy" of the Centre and the state governments, the Supreme Court on Monday passed several directions for "systemic overhaul" so that Consumer Protection Act does not become "dead letter".
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur observed that the "poor state" of the consumer courts was mainly due to gross inadequate infrastructure, poor organisational set up, absence of adequate and trained manpower and lack of qualified members in the adjudicating bodies.
Referring to an interim report submitted by a apex-court constituted committee, headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice Arijit Pasayat, the bench noted that the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) and consumer courts in various states, including Delhi, Maharashtra, Punjab, Haryana Tamil Nadu and Jammu and Kashmir, were not functioning effectively as expected.
"The interim report of committee provides an unfortunate reflection of the state of affairs in the consumer fora at the district, state and national level. That these bodies which are vested with important functions of a judicial nature continue to work despite the prevalence of such adverse conditions and in the face of the apathy of the governments both at national and state level is a matter which requires immediate intervention by this court," the bench, also comprising justices D Y Chandrachud and L N Rao, said.
"A systemic overhaul of the entire infrastructure is necessary if the Consumer Protection Act, is not to become a dead letter. With the proliferation of goods and services in a rapidly growing economy, Parliament envisaged the enactment to be the corner-stone of a vibrant consumer movement. Reality has been distant from the aspirations of the law," it said.
It passed a slew of directions and asked the Centre to frame within four months model rules for adoption by the state governments and submit it before the apex court for approval.
"The Union government shall also frame within four months model rules prescribing objective norms for
implementing the provisions of section 10(1)(b), section 16(1)(b) and section 20(1)(b) in regard to the appointment of members respectively of the District fora, State Commissions and National Commission," it said.