National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission contributes a lot in the country’s administrative reforms. This Commission has provided numerous guidelines and advises the Government of India on regular intervals for systematizing its functionalities that has made it one of the important bodies for the better and effectual governance in self-governing system.
In 1988, the Government of India established the quasi-judicial National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission to modernize and improve the system of governance in the whole country. This Commission came into force under the Consumer Protection Act of 1986 whose mandates and rule for implementation needed a thorough assessment and strategy for implementation under a law.
The Consumer Protection Act was passed in 1986 to protect the interests of the consumers. The objective of this law is to provide a simple, fast and inexpensive mechanism to the citizens to redress their grievances in specified cases.
By spelling out the rights and remedies of the consumers in a market so far dominated by organized manufacturers and traders of goods and providers of various types of services, the Act makes the dictum, caveat emptor (‘buyer beware’) a thing of the past.
The Act envisages three-tier quasi-judicial machinery at the National, State and District levels:
National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission – known as “National Commission”;
State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission known as “State Commission”; and
District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum – known as “District Forum”.
The Act also provides for establishment of Consumer Protection Councils at the Union, State and District levels, whose main objectives are to promote and protect the rights of consumers.
Each District Forum is headed by a person who is, has been or is eligible to be appointed as a District Judge and each State Commission is headed by a person who is or has been a Judge of a High Court.
The provisions of this Act cover ‘goods’ as well as ‘services’. The goods are those, which are manufactured or produced and sold to consumers through wholesalers and retailers. The services are in the nature of transport, telephone, electricity, housing, banking, insurance, medical treatment, etc.
A written complaint can be filed before the District Consumer Forum for pecuniary value of up to Rs. twenty lakh, State Commission for value upto Rs. one crore and the National Commission for value above Rs. one crore, in respect of defects in goods or deficiency in service.
The service can be of any description and the illustrations given above are only indicative. However, no complaint can be filed for alleged deficiency in any service that is rendered free of charge or under a contract of personal service.
The remedy under the Consumer Protection Act is an alternative in addition to that already available to the aggrieved persons/consumers by way of civil suit. In the complaint/appeal/petition submitted under the Act, a consumer is not required to pay any court fee, but only a nominal fee.
Consumer Fora proceedings are summary in nature. The endeavor is made to grant relief to the aggrieved consumer as quickly as possible, keeping in mind the provisions of the Act which lay down time schedule for disposal of cases.
If a consumer is not satisfied by the decision of a District Forum, he can appeal to the State Commission. Against the order of the State Commission, a consumer can come to the National Commission.
In order to help achieve the objects of the Consumer Protection Act, the National Commission has also been conferred with the power of administrative control over all the State Commissions by calling for periodical returns regarding the institution, disposal and pendency of cases.
Head office of National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission is in Delhi and it has been mandated to assess all the issues which are of prime importance as far as redressal aspects are concerned.
This Commission has been empowered with the autonomous power to tackle the issues through keeping in consideration the legal framework from observation to implementation of ideas to taking decisions that can prove highly result oriented for all types of consumer disputes.
National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission submits its reports to the Central Government on regular intervals. As it is a complete research and analysis body, this Commission has already taken several initiatives which are of the paramount value for redressal purpose.
A sitting or retired judge of the Supreme Court of India heads this Commission to offer the practically oriented reports to the government for implementation.
The National Commission is empowered to issue instructions regarding
- Adoption of uniform procedure in the hearing of the matters,
- Prior service of copies of documents produced by one party to the opposite parties,
- Speedy grant of copies of documents, and
- Generally over-seeing the functioning of the State Commissions and the District Forums to ensure that the objects and purposes of the Act are best served, without interfering with their quasi-judicial freedom.