Abolish Consumer Fora If You Don’t Want To Fill Vacancies: SC To Govt

New Delhi:  The Supreme Court on Friday slammed the government over the delay in appointment of presidents and members in consumer fora, saying if it is not keen on filling up vacancies to allow full-fledged functioning, then it can do away with the fora.

A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M.M. Sundresh said: “We are stretching our jurisdictions to see if the vacancies are filled in. It is unfortunate that the judiciary is called upon to look into this issue.

“This is not a very happy situation.”

Senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, acting as amicus curiae in the matter, submitted before the bench that the Bombay High Court had struck down Rules 3(2)(b), 4(2)(c) and 6(9) of the Consumer Protection (Qualification for appointment, method of recruitment, procedure of appointment, term of office, resignation and removal of president and member of the State Commission and District Commission) Rules, 2020. He added that the same may have an impact on the process already started for the other states.

During the hearing, the bench said if the government does not want consumer fora to function, then it should abolish the Consumer Protection Act.

Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi submitted that two weeks’ window was provided by the judgment of the high court to enable Centre or any party aggrieved by the judgment to assail it, and the Centre and Maharashtra government are in process of filing the special leave petition.

But to this, the court said: “Be that as it may, the question is whether the process which has been initiated in the different states in pursuance to our comprehensive order passed on August 11, 2021 should be kept in abeyance in view of this judgment.”

On the aspect of the importance of filling up of the vacancies, it said: “We are of the view that the timeline and processes fixed by us must continue as in some of the cases the appointments have been made and in others the appointment process is at an advanced stage.”

The bench emphasised that the process initiated should not be impeded by the high court judgment.

It asked state governments to provide details on infrastructure available to consumer fora to the amicus curiae within a week.

“The states which have not done so will positively do so within one week from today, failing which the concerned Secretary of the State Government shall remain personally present,” said the bench, fixing the matter for further hearing on November 10.

On August 11, the top court had directed states to fill up around 800 vacancies in consumer courts across the country within eight weeks, as it heard a suo motu matter in connection with filling up vacancies in consumer courts.