This is a guest post by Basavangouda Patil, a final year student of NLSIU, Bangalore and one of the petitioners in a PIL filed to ensure the proper implementation of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
On April 1, 2013 the Hon’ble High Court Bench: Chief Justice Wagela, and Justice Nagarathna passed an Interim Order directing the State Government, Department of Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs and the Karnataka State Consumers Disputes Redressal Commission to fill up the vacancies at the State Commission and also several District Forums across Karnataka by May 31, 2013. The High Court’s Order came after months of hard work and the help of CLPR’s Jayna Kothari who has been arguing on our behalf.
The order was passed with reference to a writ petition filed in public interest by 5 students of the National Law School of India University, Bangalore who are seeking the proper implementation of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. The petition deals with six issues which are:
a) Vacancies in the various Consumer Forums;
b) Case pendency in the various Consumer Forums across the State of Karnataka;
c) The setting up of additional District Forums;
d) The non-disposal of cases within the mandated statutory time;
e) The setting up of a State Council and District Councils; and
f) The consequent non utilization of the funds allotted for these purposes.
We began collecting documents pursuant to RTI applications since September last year. Our initial responses arrived only several months after having made our RTI applications. The responses were the basis on which we drafted Volume I of our Implementation Report titled “State of Consumer Protection in Karnataka: An Analysis of the Institutional Implementation of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, its Allied Rules and Regulations in the State of Karnataka” released under the Chair on Consumer Law and Practice, Ministry of Consumer Affairs.
After submitting our Report to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, we expected the system to act upon the findings in the Report however the Government had ignored the findings and had conveniently overlooked the vacancies that were being created every month at several District Forums across Karnataka. It was shocking to note the steadily increasing number of vacancies in the District Forums. Besides the vacancies, a large number of District forums were now defunct, thus causing a huge pendency in consumer matters. Nearly six District Forums across the State of Karnataka became defunct owing to a lack in quorum. The case pendency in the various Consumer Forums in Karnataka has reportedly reached its highest ever mark since the establishment of these Forums – the number in the State Commission alone is nearing five thousand.
The interim order of the High Court of Karnataka comes not a day too soon, although it remains to be seen whether the Government will heed the order of the Court, and take measures to fill up the existing vacancies by the stipulated time.
For now, the matter has been adjourned to the June 3, 2013.