– Sarvesh Pannalal Giri
Initially, considering the archaic methods of exchange of products, goods or articles was by way of bartar system and this system was into existence before the advent of coins in the market which could be the way of buying the articles.
But now it has changed over the time and now with the introduction of coins and rupees or money, there was an introduction of concept called as “Consumer.” There was an introduction of this concept because now people started using money or rupees as the mode of exchange. With the creation of relation of consumer and seller, there crept irregularities in the society as the sellers or promoters gradually became greedy and explicitly expressed it in their work or profession as for instance, selling a degraded quality of product.
Initially there were no provision in India which safeguarded the right or one can say the fundamental rights of the consumer or the costumer i.e. the right to have a high quality product without any compromise done on materials used to manufacture or build the product or any such article attached to that product, fair trade, etc. But, however, in year 1986, India came up with an exclusive statute i.e. CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT, 1986, which served the purpose of the consumers and safeguarded their rights.
The Consumer is any person or individual who has invested his precious money, capital, etc in the product or article or trade either for buying the article or for availing the services of the agency or any institute.
Consumer, the customer: –
The Consumer is any person who can avail the services of an institute or agencies or organizations, etc. and this service includes availing loan facilities by bank, supplying electricity, purchasing products from the company, buying a flat or a constructed entity from a promoter or developer of builder.
Today the financial institutes, banks and other institutes have gone down on morality and this is a wide prospect as it extends to manufacturers as well as the service providers. Hence this statute was the need of hour as the main motto of this statute was/is to establish a consumer friendly oriented scenario rather than a manufacturer or a seller dominant society where there was no room for consumers to be heard.
When can a consumer approach the forum?
As rightly stated that now the manufacturers, agencies, institutions, etc. have gone down on morality and as such have been expressing low graded service, products or articles and the same with high level of defects. Any person or individual shells out his precious money to buy any article or goods with following shortcomings are open to a complaint or approach to forum.
This term in introduced which means that faults, shortcomings or imperfection in the quality, quantity or purity of the article or in simple words defective goods. However, the word “articles” as per the National Commission does not include newspapers and newspaper purchasers cannot approach the forum on the grounds that the news printed in newspaper is defective as was rightly held in the case of Devanand Gehlot V/S Rajasthan Patrika.
Here are some instances which will assist in judging if an article is defective of not:
a) An air-conditioner with an unusual loud noise.
b) Adulterated rape seed, on consumption of which the consumer has suffered physically.
c) Fake brakes of motor bikes.
d) A steel cupboard whose shelves are missing.
e) A flat or a room without any water or electricity connection.
Considering the concept of “TACIT CONTRACT” which create a legal obligation upon the buyers as well as the manufacturer and as such both the parties.
Any person or individual exposed to deficiencies or shortcoming of any nature whatsoever is completely free to knock the doors of the forum for assistance in procuring justice. Generally, this concept is confused with the concept of defects but there is a thin line which differentiates it i.e. the former is only in case of any services availed for.
Here are certain instances to help one determine the deficiencies in an article:
a. N. Prabhakaran v/s General Manager, Southern Railways, Madras
in this case it was held by the National Commission that the failure in providing cushioned seats to passengers in railways amounts to deficiencies and that the passengers are liable to compensation as this lead to physical discomfort to them.
b. Issuing bills without meter reading and not sending bills on time to the users amounts to deficiencies on part of the electricity providers.
c. Allotment of same roll no to three students in a university examination.
d. Supplying stale and rotten food to passengers in the railways.
e. Furthering payment from a bank account though upon receiving instruction from account holder to stop payment.
Procedure to Approach the Consumer Forum:
Considering the general scenario in the society, every person or group considers legal approach as a stress as they are of the perception that they will have to spend the rest of their precious life in the court procedure, but now with the introduction of this forum it has been providing speedy remedy to the consumers with consumer friendly approach followed in the court.
Generally, upon being aggrieved for any of the instances mentioned above people approach the court of law as a civil suit or a criminal suit which would be governed by procedure laid down in the Civil Procedure and Criminal Procedure Code, but now justice has got easy by virtue of Consumer Protection Rules 1987, wherein one can approach the court with meagre cost as for instance the fee payable at District forum is maximum of Rs. 500/-, State Commission is Rs. 4000/- and National Commission is Rs. 5000/-, as laid down under Rule 9A of the said rule.
After lodging a complaint in the court of law, the first stage is the admission stage wherein the aggrieved party have to prove the case before the Hon’ble Court and the court grants sufficient space and time to produce your submission on the grounds of “AUDI ALTERAM PARTEM” (no one goes unheard). Upon being allowed the case goes either to final argument or the date for filling written submission wherein you prove your stand. After the said submission the court provides last chance to provide final argument whereupon which the court grants order and judgement as it deems fit.
Being aggrieved by the order passed by the Hon’ble District Commission, there are provision made available to approach the Hon’ble State Commission under Section 15 of Consumer Protection Act, 1986, whereby they follow the same procedure and upon being further aggrieved by the order passed by the State Commission can approach in form of appeal under Section 17 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, before the National Commission.
Award and Reliefs:
The consumer court has the jurisdiction to take all cases that concern the consumer as a whole. Hence this court does not award a criminal penalty. Generally, the penalties or award granted is a compensation from the defaulter to the aggrieved person but this does not make the person free to easily default in following the orders passed by the Hon’ble Court as it would clearly amount to the contempt of court, more particularly civil contempt of court. As for instance, the National Commission awarded 3 months’ imprisonment in case of Sambhawna Builders Aggrieved Members V/S Sambhawna Builders, wherein the directors of the construction company did not comply with the orders of the court.
Can A Complaint Against a Builder Be Heard Before the Consumer Court?
As per the scope and purpose of this statute/Act, definitely a case against a builder or a developer can be heard before the Hon’ble Consumer Court. This fact about approach the Consumer Court is unknown to a couple of people and consequently they approach the civil courts wherein they have to shell out huge capital from their pockets for the case.
The consumer courts have come down heavily upon the builders as the builders these days are very much involved into a couple of malpractices and have been leading the list of defaulters such as delayed possession, defects in flat allotted to the purchasers, etc.
Vindu Giri v/s Ekveera Builders & Developers
In this case the Hon’ble District Court awarded the complainant with a compensation of Rs.1,50,000/- for delayed possession granted by the said builder which was a blatant violation of mandatory provisions of Maharashtra Ownership of Flats Act,1970.
Similarly, in another case in Pune, wherein the builder defaulted in giving the Occupation certificate, completion certificate and water connection to the flat purchasers, whereby the Additional Commissioner awarded an interim relief of Rs. 3,50,000/- to the flat purchaser till the developers procures a water connection and also directed the developers to initiate the procedure to obtain Occupation certificate, completion certificate.
Hence, the perusal of aforesaid content makes it pretty clear that justice in India is now no longer costly and time consuming as its now got easy with the approach as well as the procedure followed within. All one needs over this is to logically understand and interpret the language of the statute with fine sense of judgment. It’s time to knock the doors of the court to bring down the castle of defaulters’.