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COPRA: State Commission

Consumer Protection Act has been implemented(1986) or we can bring into existence to protect the rights of a consumer. It protects the consumer from exploitation that business practice to make profits which in turn harm the well being of the consumer and society.

This right helps to educate the consumer on the right and responsibilities of being a consumer and how to seek help or justice when faced with exploitation as a consumer. It teaches the consumer to make the right choices and know what is right and what is wrong.

Introduction
The consumer is the person that consumes, especially one that acquires goods or services for direct use or ownership rather than for resale or use in production and manufacturing. And according to the Consumer Protection Act, it is defined as consumer means any person who:
  1. buys any goods for a consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment, and includes any user of such goods other than the person who buys such goods for consideration paid or promised or partly paid or partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment when such use is made with the approval of such person but does not include a person who obtains such goods for resale or for any commercial purpose; or

  2. hires or avails of any services for a consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment, and includes any beneficiary of such services other than the person who hires or avails of the services for consideration paid or promised, or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment, when such services are availed of with the approval of the first-mentioned person.
This is the overview of what a consumer is? Every consumer has some rights provided by the Consumer Protection Act which empowers consumers to bring action against the defects and deficiency of goods or services purchased by him. The defects and deficiency can be of fault, imperfections, shortcomings, and impurity in the quality, quantity, potency, standard, and purity.

The rights provided by the Consumer Protection Act to the consumer are as follows:

  • The Right to be Heard

    Every consumer has the right to be heard after being exploited. An upset consumer should be aware that he/she possesses the right to take the matter to the authorities if the company does not hear them out. The right to be heard is a powerful right at the disposal of the consumer.
     
  • The Right to Seek Redressal

    Every consumer has the right to seek out justice. Upset consumers who have been a victim of corporate exploitations can take the matter to the redressal agencies and file a suit against the insensitive company. This right is often put to ill-use by many consumers and is hence a very delicate right.
     
  • The Right to Information

    Every consumer has the right to information. Consumers should be amidst truthful and genuine information. Information should not have an ill purpose and should not be incorrect. In other words, consumers have the right to truthful information.
     
  • The Right to Protection

    Every consumer has the right to protection. Central Consumer Protection Council, State Consumer Protection Council, District Forum, and Consumer Protection Redressal Agencies are at the disposal of the consumers. These institutions aim at protecting Indian consumers from exploitative companies.
     
  • The Right to Assurance

    Every consumer has the right to assurance. Assurance of qualitative goods and qualitative services. They also have the right to the assurance of the variety of commodities and services at their disposal.
     
  • The Right to Consumer Education

    Every consumer also has the right to receive consumer education. This education is often a part of every consumer protection act and amendment. The government should make an immense effort to share and spread consumer rights to every remote area of India. Consumers should also receive the right to get an education on the consumer do’s and consumer's don’ts. This is a very informative and knowledgeable right at the disposal of the consumers.
All these consumer rights are provided to consumers by the consumer Act and these are protected by the consumer redressal machinery working at various levels in our nation under the provision of the consumer protection act.

The consumer Protection Act envisages the establishment of the following redressal agencies:

  1. Consumer Dispute Redressal Forum to be known as “District Forum”.
  2. Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission, to be known as “The State Commission”.
  3. National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission “The National Commission”.

The State Commission
Composition of the State Commission (Section 16)
Each State Commission shall consist of one President and two or more other members.

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 the High Court.

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

Qualifications of members:
The members should have the following qualifications in order to be a member of the state commission for consumer disputes redressal:
  1. be not less than thirty-five years of age;
  2. possess a bachelor's degree from a recognized university; and
  3. 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 percent. 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 the equivalent level.

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:
  1. has been convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for an offense which, in the opinion of the State Government, involves moral turpitude; or
  2. is an undischarged insolvent; or
  3. is of unsound mind and stands so declared by a competent court; or
  4. has been removed or dismissed from the service of the Government or a body corporate owned or controlled by the Government; or
  5. 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
    has such other disqualifications as may be prescribed by the State Government.
The 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:
  1. President of the State Commission...Chairman;
  2. Secretary of the Law Department of the State ....Member;
  3. Secretary in charge 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.

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.

Jurisdiction of the State Commission

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

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 up to 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.

Territorial Jurisdiction

A complaint shall be instituted in a State Commission within the limits of whose jurisdiction:
  1. 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
     
  2. 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
     
  3. the cause of action, wholly or in part, arises.

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.

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.

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 the 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.

Expeditious hearing of appeal (Section 19 A)

A new section, 19A, has been inserted by the consumer protection (Amendment) Act, 2002. It provides that endeavor 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 the appeal, quicker decision, and restriction of adjournment.

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 the 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.

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