Sale of packaged drinking water above maximum retail price (MRP), medical negligence cases and delay in handing over of flats by builders were some issues that led the consumer fora to take sellers and service providers to task in 2016. Union minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore had to knock the doors of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) to secure possession of a furnished home from Parsvanath Builders.
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Though he got the relief, Rathore had to rush to the Supreme Court which directed the real estate major to complete his flat within eight months, besides compensating the ace shooter-turned-politician for the delay. As the apex consumer body continued delivering pro-consumer verdicts through the year, issues like poor infrastructure, lack of skilled and impartial members of the bench in these panels across the country affected its functioning and were highlighted in an interim report of a Supreme Court-appointed committee.
The apex court, while considering the report, passed a slew of directions for a “systemic overhaul” of the Consumer Protection Act and its courts noting their infrastructural inadequacy and asked the Centre to frame model rules for adoption by the state governments. “A systemic overhaul of the entire infrastructure is necessary if the Consumer Protection Act, is not to become a dead letter. With the proliferation of goods and services in a rapidly growing economy, Parliament envisaged the enactment to be the corner-stone of a vibrant consumer movement. Reality has been distant from the aspirations of the law,” it said.
Besides taking judicial note of unkept promises by real estate firms, the apex consumer forum acted proactively to deliver justice to the common man, which was evident when it came down heavily on a Jaipur-based multiplex by imposing a fine of Rs. 5 lakh on it for selling packaged drinking water above the MRP.
A number of hospitals and doctors across the country also came under the scanner in several cases of medical negligence. AIIMS too bore the brunt for alleged deficiency in services as a south Delhi district consumer forum asked it to compensate a girl for alleged negligence during transplantation of cornea in her eye.
Similarly, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital was also pulled up and asked to pay compensation for the wrong treatment. Another private hospital and three of its doctors were ordered to pay Rs. 64 lakh to a woman by the NCDRC for their negligence in giving requisite treatment to her premature baby resulting in the infant becoming blind.
The apex consumer commission asked two Himachal Pradesh doctors to pay Rs 10 lakh to the family of a woman who died after they had performed an “unwanted” operation removing her uterus in “haste” 13 years ago.