DISTRICT CONSUMER FORUM
- A district consumer forum, also known as the District Commission, is a consumer dispute redressal commission established by the State Government, by a notification, in each district of the state, under the section 28(1) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.
- These consumer forums are established with the purpose of protecting and enforcing the rights of the consumers and providing them with an additional way, along with the action in civil courts, to seek redressal. These consumer forums are quasi-judicial bodies, established by the act of the Parliament which run parallel to the civil courts.
- The consumer’s right to seek redressal against unfair trade practices or restrictive trade practices or their unscrupulous exploitation is protected by these forums.
- Along with the district consumer forum, the Consumer Protection Act (hereafter referred to as “the act”) also provides for the establishment of the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, also known as the State Commission, by the State Government and the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, also known as the National Commission, by the Central Government, each of these commissions having varying jurisdictions.
- The District Forum would be composed of:
- President—a person who is, or has been, or is qualified to be a District Judge,
- Not less than two other members— one of the two members shall be a woman. The two members shall have the following qualifications:
- 35 years of age is bare minimum;
- having a bachelor’s degree from a university which is recognised;
- Integrity, ability and standing is essential and have adequate knowledge and experience of at least 10 years of dealing problems related to economics, public affairs, industry, commerce, accountancy, law or administration.
- As an assistance for the District Commission, certain officers as well as employees may be provided by the Government of the State. Under the general superintendence of the President of the District Commission, their functions would be discharged by such officers.
- A member would be disqualified from the appointment on the following grounds:
- Having convicted for an offence involving moral turpitude; or
- is of unsound mind; or
- dismissed from the service of the government or any corporate body under the government; or
- Having a financial interest, according to the State Government;
- is an insolvent; or
- has such other disqualifications as notified by the State Government.
- Every appointment as mentioned shall be done by the State Government on the advice of a selecting committee consisting of:
- President of the State Commission
- Consumer Affair Department’s Secretary
- State’s Law Department Secretary
- Each member will hold the office for a period of 4 years or till the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier and would also be eligible for a re appointment, if not reached the age of 65 years.
- The District Forum shall have jurisdiction to entertain complaints where the value of the goods or services and the compensation, if any, claimed does not exceed rupees one crore. If the Central Government feels necessary, it would provide other values as it deems fit.
- A complaint shall be instituted in a District Forum within the local limits of whose jurisdiction:
- 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
- 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 the permission of the District Commission is given;
- the cause of action, wholly or in part, arises; or
- Residence or the workplace of the complainant.
- Mere dealing with claim by some at Regional Office would not furnish part of cause of action.
- In cases of vacancy, the State Government may extend the jurisdiction of a particular district commission, beyond that district to the one with a vacancy.
- The functions of the District Commission would be ordinarily performed at the headquarters or any other place as notified by the State Government.
- The district commission has the power to entertain complaints and charge fee in relation to the goods sold or agreed to be sold or the services provided or agreed to be provided by:
- The consumer of such goods or services; or
- Any recognised consumer association; or
- One or more consumers in case where numerous consumers have the same interest; or
- the Central Government, the Central Authority or the State Government, as the case may be.
- Every proceeding before the District Commission shall be conducted by the President of that Commission and at least one member thereof, sitting together and on receipt of a complaint made, the District Commission may, by order, admit the complaint for being proceeded with or reject the same (After an opportunity to be heard is given to the complainant).
- If it appears to the District Commission that there are elements of settlement which would be acceptable to both the parties, it may direct the parties to give in writing consent to have their dispute settled by mediation.
- Where the complaint is in reference to any goods, the commission would pass the copy of the complaint to the opposite party named in the complaint to get their version of the case. The same applies in case of the services provided.
- In case of an allegation of a defect in a good which cannot be ascertained without a test or proper analysis of the substance, the commission may obtain a sample of the goods from the complainant, seal it and provide it to the appropriate laboratory for analysing or testing, as the case may be, for which a fee must be deposited by the complainant.
- The District Commission may also seek to settle the consumer dispute ex parte, on the basis of evidence provided by the complainant, in the case the party mentioned in the complaint fails to respond within the prescribed time period.
- The commission may also provide for adjournment of the case, where sufficient cause has been shown and recorded by the commission in writing. It may also provide an interim order, if necessary, depending upon the facts and circumstances of the case.
- The commission would have the same powers as vested under the CPC, 1908 in a civil court in matters namely:
- Summoning of any witness or defendant or issuing of commissions for examination of documents or any witness.
- Requiring production of a material or object as evidence or the analysis/test report from the concerned laboratory.
- Matters prescribed by the Centre.
- In cases where the allegations of the complainant are proved, the commission may order the opposite party:
- To remove the defect as have been pointed out or to replace the goods with new goods which are defect free
- To return the complainant the price or the charges paid along with interest and also provide the complainant with the compensation awarded, for the loss and damage suffered due to the negligence of the opposite party
- To pay an amount as a compensation in product liability
- To remove the defects in the goods and deficiency in the services and discontinue the unfair or restrictive trade practices.
- To stop the manufacture, sale and offer of hazardous goods and services.
- To pay a sum as determined by the commission in case of a large number of consumers that might be affected but are not easily identifiable.
- To provide corrective advertisement an desist from issuing any misleading advertisement.
- The Commission has the power to review the orders passed by it if they have an error apparent on the face of the record, either by self-evaluation or by an application of any of the parties.
- The District Forum would also have the power to grant punitive damages depending upon the circumstances of the case.
This was the Composition, Jurisdiction and Power of the District Consumer Forum.
Author: Anshpreet Singh Chowdhary,
National Law University, Delhi. Semester II