Vacancies in consumer courts: SC asks states to be careful or chief secys may be summoned


NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday rued that it was doing the work which was not supposed to be done by it and asked the states to take steps to fill up vacancies in the Districts and State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions as per its orders or be “careful in future” as their chief secretaries may be summoned.

The top court, hearing a suo motu case titled ‘Inaction of the Governments in appointing President and Members/Staff of Districts and State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission and inadequate infrastructure across India’, also cautioned states against the possibility of lapse of central funds for developing infrastructure in courts if they fail to give their share into the fund.” Grant for non-building and building have to be disbursed in 50:50 ratio.

The state-wise status of pending unutilised financial assistance has been placed before us as on September 1, What this annexure reflects is the large part of pending funds is in the category of utilisation certificate (UC) “This does not portray a very happy situation, the same requires planning by the states so that the funds do not lapse,” a bench comprising justices S K Kaul and M M Sunderesh said.

The top court perused the report and suggestions of amicus curiae and senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan and analysed the steps taken by all the states in filling up vacancies in district consumer courts and the state consumer disputes redressal commissions (SCDRCs).

The bench was critical of Rajasthan and warned the counsel that it would be summoning the state Chief Secretary on the next date of hearing for getting the requisite information.

“Actually, what we are doing is not our job,” the bench said, adding that it cannot take the specific issues of each state and they should be communicating with the amicus curiae who in turn will apprise the court through his reports and suggestions.

“What is the position. You are a single state which does not seem to follow the discipline. If you feel that the presence of the Chief Secretary is necessary, then we will call them. We will have no difficulties in summoning the chief secretaries. The states should be careful in future,” the bench said and fixed the case for hearing on February 23. It also granted eight weeks to some states to take requisite steps to fill vacancies in consumers courts.

It said that states have been categorised in two groups and the first one is those states which have not complied with and the second category is of those which have partially complied with the directions by filling up some vacancies.

“As suggested by the amicus curiae, two months by the end of January will be enough with respect to the states that have partially complied and not filed up the vacancies with exception to the state of Maharashtra,” the bench ordered.

Earlier, the apex court had expressed displeasure over delay in appointments in the Districts and State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission and said if the government does not want the tribunals then it should abolish the Consumer Protection Act.

It had directed that the process of filling up vacancies in the State Consumer Commissions as per its earlier directions must not be impeded by the judgement of the Bombay High Court which had quashed certain Consumer Protection Rules.

Sankaranarayanan had apprised the court about judgement passed by the Bombay High Court at Nagpur Bench quashing certain Consumer Protection Rules.

The top court had in January said that Consumer rights are “important rights” and non-manning of posts and inadequate infrastructure in the district and state consumer commissions across the country would deprive the citizens of redressal of their grievances.

The top court had appointed senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayan and lawyer Aaditya Narain as amicus curiae to assist it in the matter.