Law Minister calls for strong consumer movement

August 16th, 2008 - 11:00 pm ICT by ANI  

New Delhi , August 16 (ANI): Union Law and Justice Minister H.R. Bhardwaj on Saturday called for a strong consumer movement in the country.

Inaugurating the conference of Presidents of State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commissions, the Minister exhorted the States to fill up vacancies of judges in different courts. In addition, other institutions such as Lok Adalats, Tribunals and Consumer Protection Councils need to be strengthened, he argued.

For it to happen, lawyers must adopt a leadership role and States must support the consumer protection machinery, Bhardwaj said.

President of National Commission, Justice M. B. Shah, underlined the need for creating all-round awareness about consumer rights. Not only consumers but producers of goods, sellers and officials responsible for implementing welfare schemes need to be educated about consumer rights, he said.

Justice Shah gave examples of areas in which defects in goods and services are quite prevalent. These include coercive bargaining by companies in payment of insurance claims, reluctance in replacement of defective goods, misleading advertisements, unfair practices by jewellers, wrongful fixing of terms of contracts by companies, forcing beneficiaries of welfare schemes to buy items for fixed dealers, and use of force in recovery of loans.

The National Commission President informed that in the last 20 years of existence of consumer protection machinery in the country, over 27 lakh consumer cases have been disposed of out of 30 lakh cases filed. The disposal of cases at National Commission level is hundred per cent. However, State governments need to adequately support the consumer fora by providing them infrastructure and manpower, he said.

Justice Shah also called for enacting laws and modifying the existing ones to address issues arising out of globalisation and rise in consumerism.

Chief Justice of Delhi High Court, Justice A.P. Shah, drew attention towards the indifference and inaction shown by some State governments towards the consumer court machinery in their States. He called for encouraging class action as an effective way to check unfair trade practices, and raising consumer confidence so that they stand up against unfair practices.

In his presidential address, Supreme Court judge, Justice V.S. Sirpurkar, stressed upon the need to take forward the consumer movement by using the Lok Adalat model. He also suggested creating consumer protection machinery at block, taluka level. He felt that better vigilance and participation on the part of the civil society and opinion leaders is necessary to strengthen the consumer movement.

Secretary, Consumer Affairs, Y.S. Bhave, gave details of actions taken and being considered by the Government for strengthening the consumer court infrastructure, including support to the consumer fora, computer networking and training to functionaries. He informed that the Consumer Protection Act is in the process of being amended, and that an integrated law will soon be enacted for standardization of goods.

The two-day conference, also being attended by State Secretaries of Consumer Affairs, will deliberate upon ways to strengthen the consumer protection machinery and elicit cooperation from State governments towards it. (ANI)

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