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The State Commission, Under Consumer Protection Act

Written by: Jofin - Law Student, Mysore
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The year 1986 is a Magna Carta in the history of Consumerism. It was this year that witnessed the enactment of the Consumer Protection Act. The first ever legislation in India of its kind which solely aimed at the grief staken consumers who the victims of the unfair trade practices and substandard services rendered to them. The preamble to this Act reads as follows: An Act to provide for better protection of the interests of the consumers and to make provisions for the establishment of consumer councils and other authorities for the settlement of consumers disputes and for matter connected therewith. Thus the preamble to this Act makes the intention of the framers of this Act crystal clear.

The setting up of the dispute redressal machinery was only to secure and enable speedy justice to the aggrieved consumers. The enactment of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, a milestone in the history of socio-economic legislation in India, has considerably consolidated the process of consumer protection and has given rise, during the past few years, to new consumer jurisprudence. The act introduced a three-tier quasi-judicial consumer disputes redressal mechanism at the district, state and national level for dispensing inexpensive and time-bound consumer justice. Though passed in 1986, its effective implementation started only in 1990 when the institutions envisaged under the act were established throughout the country, thereby enabling a large number of consumers and organisations to approach these forums for the redressal of their grievances.

The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 underwent some amendments. Among them the important and latest amendment is of 2002. So we can say that the Act is in focus to the needs of the time. With this introduction, let me explain my assignment topic i.e, State Commission under Consumer Protection Act.

1. Composition of the State Commission (Section 16)

Each State Commission shall consist of One President and two or more other members.
1.1 The President
The President shall be a person who is or has been a Judge of a High Court, appointed by the State Government. His appointment should be made in consultation with the Chief Justice of High Court.

1.2 Members
In the state commission there should be not less than two, and not more than such number of members, as may be prescribed, and one of whom shall be a woman.

1.2.1 Qualifications of members
The members should have the following qualifications in order to be a member in the state commission for consumer disputes redressel
(i) be not less than thirty-five years of age;
(ii) possess a bachelor's degree from a recognised university; and(iii) be persons of ability, integrity and standing, and have adequate knowledge and experience of at least ten years in dealing with problems relating to economics, law, commerce, accountancy, industry, public affairs or administration:
Provided that not more than fifty per cent. of the members shall be from amongst persons having a judicial background. Explanation.- For the purposes of this clause, the expression 'persons having judicial background'' shall mean persons having knowledge and experience for at least a period of ten years as a presiding officer at the district level court or any tribunal at equivalent level.

1.2.2 Disqualifications of Members Section 16(1)

A new proviso has been added to Section 16(1), by the Consumer Protection Amendment Act, 2002. They are as following
(a) has been convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for an offence which, in the opinion of the State Government, involves moral turpitude; or
(b) is an undischarged insolvent; or
(c) is of unsound mind and stands so declared by a competent court; or
(d) has been removed or dismissed from the service of the Government or a body corporate owned or controlled by the Government; or
(e) has, in the opinion of the State Government, such financial or other interest, as is likely to affect prejudicially the discharge by him of his functions as a member; or
(f) has such other disqualifications as may be prescribed by the State Government.

1.2.3 Selection committee for appointment of members (Sec.16 (1A))
Every appointment under sub-section (1) shall be made by the State Government on the recommendation of a Selection Committee consisting of the following members, namely:

(i) President of the State Commission...Chairman;
(ii) Secretary of the Law Department of the State ....Member;
(iii) Secretary incharge of the Department dealing with Consumer Affairs in the State..... Member:
Provided that where the President of the State Commission is, by reason of absence or otherwise, unable to act as Chairman of the Selection Committee, the State Government may refer the matter to the Chief Justice of the High Court for nominating a sitting Judge of that High Court to act as Chairman.

1.2.4 Term of Office (Section 16 (3))

Every member of the State Commission shall hold office for a term of five years or up to the age of sixty-seven years, whichever is earlier: Provided that a member shall be eligible for re-appointment for another term of five years or up to the age of sixty-seven years, whichever is earlier, subject to the condition that he fulfills the qualifications and other conditions for appointment mentioned in clause (b) of sub-section (1) and such re-appointment is made on the basis of the recommendation of the Selection Committee. Provided further that a person appointed as a President of the State Commission shall also be eligible for re-appointment in the manner provided in clause (a) of sub-section (1) of this section.

A member may resign his office in writing under his hand addressed to the State Government and on such resignation being accepted, his office shall become vacant and may be filled by appointment of a person possessing any of the qualifications mentioned in sub-section (1) in relation to the category of the member who is required to be appointed under the provisions of sub-section (1A) in place of the person who has resigned.

2 Jurisdiction of the State Commission

Subject to the other provisions of this Act, the State Commission shall have jurisdiction

2.1 Pecuniary Jurisdiction
Complaints where the value of the goods or services and compensation, if any, claimed exceeds rupees twenty lakhs but does not exceed rupees one crore, then it comes under the pecuniary jurisdiction of State Commission.

It may be noted that prior to amendment the pecuniary jurisdiction of state commission was upto 20 lakhs. By the Consumer Protection (Amendment) Act, 2002, the jurisdiction of the State Commission has been increased to Rs. 1 Crore. The change is likely to be beneficial to the consumer. It will reduce the number of complaints to the National Commission.

2.2 Territorial Jurisdiction
A complaint shall be instituted in a State Commission within the limits of whose jurisdiction:
(a) the opposite party or each of the opposite parties, where there are more than one, at the time of the institution of the complaint, actually and voluntarily resides or carries on business or has a branch office or personally works for gain; or

(b) any of the opposite parties, where there are more than one, at the time of the institution of the complaint, actually and voluntarily resides, or carries on business or has a branch office or personally works for gain, provided that in such case either the permission of the State Commission is given or the opposite parties who do not reside or carry on business or have a branch office or personally work for gain, as the case may be, acquiesce in such institution; or

(c) the cause of action, wholly or in part, arises.

2.3 Appellate Jurisdiction (Section 15)
Section 15 of the Act gives the right to prefer an appeal to the state commission within a period of thirty days from the date of order of the District Forum to any person who has been aggrieved by the order. The time limit may be extended by the state commission on showing sufficient cause.

The person making an appeal should deposit 50% of the decreed amount or Rs.25000/- whichever is less. This requirement has been introduced by the Consumer Protection (Amendment) Act, 2002.

3. Transfer of cases (Section 17 A)

This section is also inserted by the Consumer Protection (Amendment) Act, 2002. This section enables the State Commission to transfer a Case from one District Forum to another within the state. On the application of a complaint or of its own motion, the State Commission may, at any stage of the proceeding, transfer any complaint pending before the District Forum to another District Forum within the State if the interest of justice so requires.

4. Circuit Benches (Section 17 B)

This is a new provision inserted in the Act by the Consumer Protection (Amendment) Act, 2002. Section 17 B, provides for establishment of Circuit Benches of State Commission. The State Commission shall ordinarily function in the State Capital but may perform its functions at such other place as the State Government may, in consultation with the State Commission, notify in the Official Gazette, from time to time.

5. Expeditious hearing of appeal (Section 19 A)

A new section, 19A, has been inserted by the consumer protection (Amendment) Act, 2002. It provides that endeavour shall be made to dispose of appeals filed before the State Commission or the National Commission within ninety days from the date of admission. It provided for expeditious hearing of appeal, quicker decision and restriction of adjournment.

Conclusion
The scope of the Consumer Protection Act is widening in the society which is pro to globalization, industrialization and Privatization. So the Legislature has taken all the possible steps by making timely amendments to the Act in accordance with the needs of time. In fact all the amendments made to the Consumer Protection Act by the 2002 Amendments aim at furthering the efficiency of the Act and doing away with procedural delays which render the consumers disillusioned and dissatisfied.

These Amendments have been fruitful in providing protection to the consumers in the real sense of the term and served the purpose of the Act. It is hoped that further amendments would aim at even more efficiency and render the position of the consumers much stronger in this era of globalization and privatization where the sudden unchecked advent of Multi National Companies has to be balanced with the protection of the rights of the consumers by the legislature and the judiciary.

The author can be reached at: jofin@legalserviceindia.com / Print This Article

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