The Delhi High Court on Tuesday issued notice in a petition highlighting the dismal state of consumer forums in the national capital (Sangam Singh Kochar v. Ministry of Law and Justice and Ors).
The Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh issued notice to the Union Ministries of Law and Justice, Consumer Affairs and Food and Public Distribution, as well as the Delhi government and the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission. The Court has listed the case for further hearing on February 28.
The petition filed by lawyer Sangam Singh Kochar stated that Right to Information (RTI) replies received from the District Consumer Forum (South-West) revealed that it does not have enough laptops and was facing an acute shortage of staff. The condition was so bad that the post of the female member of the forum had been lying vacant since April 2018, the plea stated.
Kochar claimed that when he had filed a case in the said consumer forum in 2017, a seven-month long date was given for the next hearing. On this date, it was again adjourned for hearing five months later.
“The petitioner was barely given any opportunity to put forth his case in front of the said District Forum. The reason quoted for such delay was inadequate staff and lack of machinery to record orders in the said district Forum. Moreover, in the above-said Consumer case,, not even a single order has been uploaded on the concerned website till date. The concerned website is not even reflecting the details of the said case status,” read the petition.
The petitioner added that assurances were given to him and other advocates that the functioning of the forum would improve once it is shifted from Sheikh Sarai to Dwarka (Sector 20), but no such development took place.
“There is still inadequate infrastructure at Dwarka as files are kept openly at every corner inside the courtroom. The staff is still incomplete, the required computers are still short, getting clean toilets and drinking water is still a challenge and the quorum is still incomplete. No useful purpose has been served even after shifting the said Court from Sheikh Sarai to Dwarka,” the petition alleged.
The plea stated that the Supreme Court in its 2017 judgment in State of Uttar Pradesh and Ors v. All UP-Consumer Protection Bar Association had directed state governments to frame and adopt rules under Section 30 of the Consumer Protection Act in accordance with the Model Rules, within three months. However, the Delhi government has failed to adopt these rules, Kochar stated.
“That the willful refusal by the Delhi Government/Respondent to adopt the Model Rules is in contempt of the orders of the Hon’ble Apex Court and has resulted and contributed in the working of the District Consumer Forums at Delhi being inefficient, understaffed, un-quorumed and lacking the basic infrastructure and facilities as should be readily available in every Court premises,” the petition argued.
The petition thus sought a direction to the government and authorities to fill up the vacancies in district forums in the capital, and to provide adequate infrastructure as well as basic amenities