Inadequate infrastructure cripples consumer courts

India’s official consumer protection apparatus suffers from critical gaps.

Pankaj Sharma/Zee Research Group

As India celebrates 25 years of enactment of its Consumer Protection Act, 1986 on World Consumer Day, India’s official consumer protection apparatus suffers from critical gaps when it comes to delivery of justice to consumers in the country.

The gaps include significant deficits in human infrastructure as also physical infrastructure at thousands of India’s state and district consumer courts in the country. This is likely to result in further delay in clearing a whopping 3,43,736 cases pending in consumer courts at state and district level.

According to ZRG analysis of current pendency cases, Uttar Pradesh followed by Maharashtra topped the list of pending cases with maximum of 1,05,698 and 35.988 consumer cases pending respectively before state consumer commission and district consumer forums. The analysis threw up inadequate infrastructure as among the key reasons for the rising pendency levels.

A profile assessment of the consumer courts in these two worst performing states reveals that Uttar Pradesh has two posts for the role of the president and four posts for the member role lying vacant as of now. In Maharashtra, eight posts for president and 26 posts for member post are vacant.

According to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, while Uttar Pradesh consumer forums are down with insufficient manpower, Maharashtra consumer forums have the additional burden of not having adequate office infrastructure to process pending consumer cases.

Alongside the state of UP and Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Haryana and Gujarat too are also facing a long list of pending cases at consumer forums. A large number of consumers in Rajasthan, Haryana and Gujarat are also waiting for justice with 29,348, 22,362 and 20,694 pending cases seeking consumer redressal.

Haryana and Rajasthan are facing the crisis of insufficient manpower while consumer forums in Gujarat are short of typewriters.

However, aggrieved with the piling up of cases in consumer fora, Prof KV Thomas, Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution said, “It is essential that consumer forums at all levels at the Centre and the states function efficiently. They should not be allowed to become like civil courts with litigations, even those involving small compensation, becoming long-drawn out processes leading consumers to lose confidence in the justice delivery system.”

Presently, there are 629 district fora, 35 state commissions and one National Commission in place in the country for inexpensive and quick redressal of consumer grievances. The district consumer forums alone are laden with highest 2,47,620 cases. State consumer commissions and National Consumer Commission follow closely with 96,116 and 9,493 pending cases with them respectively.