National Conference on Effective Functioning of Consumer Fora Held

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NEW DELHI: The government has realized the plight of Indian consumers and the Department of Consumer Affairs as the nodal organization for the protection of consumer rights has initiated a major step to rewrite the Consumer Protection Act so as to remove various lacunae in the Act that has been noticed over the last 28 years of its enforcement.

This was observed by Arun Jaitley while addressing the National conference on effective functioning of Consumer Fora’ organized by Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Ram Vilas Paswan . He said that comprehensive amendments are therefore on the anvil to the consumer protection law that will introduce far reaching changes.

Presiding over the conference, Ram Vilas Paswan, the Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution reiterated the commitment of the government to Consumer Protection. He pointed out that government alone, regardless of the sector it deals with or the domain it regulates, cannot adequately address several of these challenges.

There is a need, he emphasized, for all stakeholders – the Central Government, State Governments to work together. He noted that for the law to be fully effective and serve the purpose for which it was enacted, simple, inexpensive and speedy justice ought to become the very reason for the existence of these courts. And that has to be accomplished through stringent monitoring of the working of the courts. It is also necessary to create an infrastructure that would help consumers understand the law and file complaints smoothly. Only then will we see a different picture of consumer justice and empowerment in India

In his welcome address, Keshav Desiraju, Secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs, noted that consumers are a vulnerable lot for exploitation, more so in a developing country with the prevalence of mass poverty and illiteracy. The challenges that we confront would require policy coherence and coordinated program implementation, harmonization of the legislative framework and the regulatory apparatus.

Over the years government has taken, many steps to strengthen the consumer movement in the country and to protect their interests. A legal system and a strong dispute redressal mechanism have been put in place with procedural simplicity and speedy and inexpensive redressal of consumer grievances.

Justice D.K.Jain, the President of the National Consumer Disputes Resolution Commission (NCDRC) noted that India enjoys a unique position in the consumer advocacy movement with a dedicated three tier Quasi­ Judicial Consumer Dispute Redress Mechanism established at the District, State and National levels under the law. He emphasized the need for governments at the Centre and the States and the consumer courts to work closely together to provide effective and timely grievance redress to consumers.

The Conference on ‘Effective Functioning of Consumer Fora’  which was attended by President and Members of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), Ministers and Secretaries in charge of Consumer Affairs in States and Presidents of State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions, deliberated upon the problems being faced in the smooth functioning of Consumer Fora and suggested measures to improve their functioning.

The Conference noted that:

1) There should be uniform recruitment procedure and respectable remuneration for Presidents and Members of the Consumer Fora.

2) It was impressed upon the State Governments to strengthen the infrastructure of the Consumer Fora for their smooth functioning and to expedite furnishing the pending Utilization Certificates of the grants provided by the Central Government and to seek further grants with detailed proposals.

3)  All the Consumer Fora need to use complete workflow of the Online Case Monitoring System (OCMS) application under the CONFONET Scheme. The State Governments should cooperate in implementation of the scheme and making it fully operational.

4)  Efforts should be made by all concerned to reduce the delay in disposal of consumer complaints. The State Governments were asked to initiate timely action for filling up of the vacancies of President and Member in the Consumer Fora. Endeavor should be made by the Consumer Fora to adhere to the time limits prescribed in the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

5) To meet the training needs of the Members of the Consumer Fora without having any legal background, it was emphasized that the training programme being administered by IIPA may be fully availed of. In addition, such Members may also be encouraged to undergo the one year distance mode course developed by National Law School University India.

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