CHENNAI: When the Centre passed the new Consumer Protection Act last year, many expected the consumer to finally become the king of the market economy. However, bogged down by vacancies, consumer forums across the State are struggling to ensure speedy justice for the affected consumer.
The pandemic has only made the situation worse, with disposal of cases almost coming to a standstill. C ases with claim value of up to Rs 20 lakh can be filed in district consumer redressal forums, while those between Rs 20 lakh and Rs 1 crore should be filed in the State Consumer Redressal Council. As per records available in the district consumer website, District Consumer Courts are available in 32 districts with presidents and members recruited by the State.
But of the 64 member posts, 53 remain vacant and out of 30 president posts, 24 remain vacant. T he six presidents at present handle four districts each to address the shortcomings, sources said. For example, the Perambalur consumer forum president has been visiting Tiruchy every week to dispose of the cases, as the post in Tiruchy has been lying vacant for the past three years. Even the headquarters in Chennai, the State Consumer Redressal Council, has been crippled with vacancies as it lacks a president or member for both the South and North Chennai forums.
A cursory glance of the CONFONONET website that provides status of cases, shows that cases were last disposed of in March 2020. Speaking to TN IE, A Shankar, a former consumer forum member, said that despite several representations to fill up vacancies, no action has been initiated by the State. He also added that the State is yet to frame the rules for the 2019 Consumer Protection Act. L Senthil Kumar, an advocate says that even former members can be reappointed for the functioning of the courts.
However, everything has been delayed when it comes to consumer courts, he added. C ommenting on the issue, a senior official in the Department of Civil Supplies and Consumer Protection said that the process is already underway to fill the vacancies across the State.