The Chandigarh State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission is being approached by several people from Tricity and also from neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana to get justice. In an interview to Chandigarh Newsline, Justice Jasbir Singh, former judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, who heads the commission, speaks about the cases and the process of dispensing justice.
What is the process of filing a complaint and what is the fee charged?
The filing of case is very simple. The complainant can just appear personally; there is no need to get an advocate. One can file a case with complaint application equal to the number of parties engaged in the case and an affidavit. If necessary, he can add the receipts with the complaint with a proforma which is available on the website of the commission. Now after a new notification, if the claim of the complainant is up to Rs 5 lakh, then there is no court fee. For complaints with more than Rs 5 lakh claim, the standard fee is mentioned on the website of the Chandigarh Consumer Forum and Commission.
Is the commission becoming a toothless tiger as the police does not implement its orders sometimes?
The commission or the forum is not a toothless tiger. Both have got a lot of powers and they are disbursing relief to a greater extent. In the last year, the commission disposed of more than 1,500 cases. Most of them are complaints and complaints are the major issue to decide. In few cases, we had to issue bailable and non-bailable warrants to arrest the culprits who were builders or associated with real estate firms. The accused real estate directors, including those of Unitech builders, have been sent to jail. The police have been acting on the orders, they are doing their level best, but still more efforts need to be made from the police side regarding the arrest of the accused persons against whom warrants are issued by the consumer courts.
What is the disposal rate of cases at the State Commission in Chandigarh?
I had joined in 2015, and then in 2016, we had received complaints equal to the number of complaints filed in the past five years. That means people are approaching the commission and forum. Our efficient staff has ensured the disposal rate as 100 per cent. At the commission, there is no pendency from 2016; 75 cases are pending from 2017 at present.
Is there any time frame for judgment to be pronounced in a case?
Yes, there is a time frame as per the Act, which is three months from the date of service of summons issued to the parties. And there is no long pendency in the cases and a few cases before 2016 are pending. These are those cases which are adjourned because of National Commission stay order or the Supreme Court stay order while 2017 is through and 2018 cases are already decided.
Does consumer court also provide legal aid to the complainants?
Yes, there is a legal aid account for anyone who applies for it. He can avail the legal aid from us based on criteria as per the Legal Service Authority Act. The legal aid account has been generated by imposing costs for example on the builders in some cases, and the part of cost is also submitted to the legal aid account.
What is the trend of complaints that you are receiving?
The maximum complaints we are receiving are against real estate sector, then against the insurance firms for the claims and then many cases of double charging of VAT (Value Added Tax) are also appearing. In maximum cases, justice has been delivered as per the facts and evidence, mostly to the public which has to enter into litigation due to the deficiency in service provided by the firm. We are not only receiving complaints from Tricity area but also from Rajpura, Zirakpur, and now even from Ludhiana, where the jurisdiction can fall at Chandigarh Consumer Court.
Is something being done for spreading awareness about the Consumer Act among the public ?
Awareness needs to be spread among the public so that most of the people can avail the service as it’s a cheap, effective and quick way of getting justice in consumer-related cases. The administration has agreed to set up a conference hall which will be inaugurated in a month’s time where provisions of the Consumer Act will be propagated. At the conference hall, representatives of consumer associations, students and others will be called. Our website also keeps on showing advertisement on “Jago Grahak Jago”. The website has all the information which is required to be known by the complainants.