THE STATE Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has expressed its inability to resume physical hearings from December 9 as directed by the Bombay High Court. On Monday, the commission informed the court that as most of its members are in the senior citizen category and require special Covid-19 safety protocols, it needs an extension to comply with the HC directions.
The state consumer protection department also submitted that as a second wave of Covid-19 is anticipated, it is of the opinion that the hybrid system of physical hearings as well as hearings through videoconferencing should coexist, and sought time to work out modalities to implement the same.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni was hearing a PIL filed by Consumer Courts Advocates Association, which had submitted that since lockdown began, consumer courts have been non-functional as there are no facilities to conduct virtual hearings.
On December 1, the court directed the state to inform it about the “action plan” for physical reopening of consumer courts across Maharashtra in non-containment zones from December 9.
On Monday, the commission, through its registrar (legal) filed an affidavit in reply to the plea and stated, “Judicial and non-judicial members of the state consumer disputes redressal commission (six) and presidents and members of district commissions (25) are senior citizens, above 60 years of age.”
The affidavit further stated, “To start physical hearings before the state commission, its benches and district commissions, we, on December 3, have requested the state government for allocation of funds for making safety arrangements in the premises of commissions. For making safety measures requires additional five-day time…”
The registrar also sought an 11-day extension from December 9 for starting physical hearings before district commissions. The court posted further hearing on December 11.
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