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Supreme Court raps state govts for not complying with earlier direction to fill up vacancies in consumer forums

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New Delhi, Oct 22 (ILNS) The Supreme Court today pulled up the state governments for not complying with its earlier directions to fill up vacancies in consumer forums while stating that if State Governments fails to comply the Private Secretary be called on the next date of hearing.

The two-judge bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M.M. Sundresh previously passed appropriate orders with regard to filling up vacant posts of chairman and member of districts and state commissions. 

The Supreme Court had directed State Governments to adhere to the timeline set by its order dated 22.02.2021 to fill the existing and prospective vacancies within 6 months. The Court will hear the matter on the aspect of infrastructure of consumer forums on November 10. It has asked Amicus Curiae Gopal Sankanarayanan to submit data in this aspect.

Justice Kaul stated, “In our view, the timeline fixed by us must continue. The judgment of Bombay High Court of Nagpur Bench will not have any impact on the process of appointment of Chairman and members of consumer forums.”

The bench has noted the submissions made by Senior Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan amicus in the present case, that Rule 3(2)(b), Rule 4(2)(c) and Rule 6(9) of the Consumer Protection (Qualification for appointment, method of recruitment, procedure of appointment, term of office, resignation and removal of President and Members of the State Commission and District Commission) Rules,2020 got struck down which is mentioned in the order dated 6.10.2021, passed by the Bombay High Court, Nagpur Bench. 

It might have an impact on the process which is already started in other states, he said. The bench said these are not high stakes matters, these matters are of general in nature which is of public importance. “We are stretching our jurisdiction so that vacant posts should be filled in,” said Justice Kaul.

“This is not a happy situation, if the government does not want the tribunals to function, then abolish the act,” said the bench while expressing its grave concern over the working and functioning of the central government.  

ASG Aman Lekhi contended that so far as vacancies are concerned, service rules have been notified. Committee meeting already scheduled for October 26.

Justice Kaul said, “This is not central-level ramification but also contains ramifications at the state level.” “You are saying endeavour has been in process to fill vacant posts and matter is with ACC, so far as the national commission is concerned,” said the bench after noting down the submissions made by ASG. 

ASG Lekhi submitted, “As far as appointments are concerned, principles laid down in Madras Bar Association case has duly been incorporated in the Tribunal Reform Bill 2021 (ordinance) and it is not in contravention of Madras bar case.”

Amicus Sankaranarayanan stated to see the conduct of Maharashtra government, and requested the court that they should have informed about filing of Writ Petition challenging certain advertisement and rules relating to persons to man the consumer forums.”

“Many states have said that we have filled up vacant posts,” submits Sankaranarayanan. 

Senior Advocate Manish Singhvi appearing for the Rajasthan Government submitted that they are about to complete the process of appointment since some of the appointments were done before September and after September also.

Previously, on September 8, 2021, the bench made categorical observations that this court will only examine to extent of filling up vacancies and infrastructure akin to consumer forums across the country. The court declined to make any consideration pertaining to the validity of any rules/statutes challenged before the apex court.

The Court was hearing its Suo Motu plea on pending vacancies in Districts and State Consumer Redressal Commission Across India, titled as, Re: Inaction of Governments in appointing Presidents and Members/Staff of Districts and State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission and Inadequate infrastructure across India.

The Court also directed the Union of India to take care of the six vacancies pending in the National Consumer Fora and try to fill these by the next date of hearing i.e. 12th April 2020. The Court said, “this is hardly expected at the apex level as it creates a cascading effect down which does not speak well of the institution.”

The Court had previously issued notice to all the Union Territories and the State Governments on a petition filed by the law student Saloni Gautam which had sought directions against the inaction of Governments in appointing President and members/staff of Districts and State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions across India./ILNS/KR/SNG/

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