Updated: October 23, 2021 1:06:28 pm
THE SUPREME Court on Friday expressed anguish over the delay in filling of vacancies in district and state-level consumer bodies and said it is not a happy situation that the judiciary is called upon to look into the issue.
“If the government does not want the tribunals then abolish the Act. We are stretching our jurisdictions to see the vacancies are filled. It’s unfortunate that the judiciary is called upon to look into this issue…This is not a very happy situation,” said a bench of Justices S K Kaul and M M Sundresh.
The court was hearing a suo motu case on the delay in appointment of president and members of Districts Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum and State Consumer Redressal Commissions and their lack of adequate infrastructure.
On August 11, the court had directed that the vacancies be filled up in eight weeks’ time. On Friday, Senior Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan submitted that the Centre had brought in the Tribunals Reforms Act with provisions similar to those struck down by the apex court in an earlier verdict in the Madras Bar Association case.
The SC had, in a 2:1 judgement in that case, struck down certain provisions of the Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021 which prescribed 50 years as the minimum age for appointment as Chairperson or Members and fixed four years as their tenure, citing the need to ensure impartiality and independence of judiciary.
Following this, the government brought in the Tribunal Reforms Act.
Sankaranarayanan also pointed out that the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court had, in a recent order, quashed some of the provisions of the Consumer Protection Rules, 2020, pertaining to the appointment of president and members to State and District Consumer bodies.
Appearing for the Centre, Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi contended that the Tribunals Reforms Act was not in contravention but rather in consonance with the SC verdict in Madras Bar Association case.
But the bench responded that “it seems that the bench says something and you do something else and some kind of embargo is being created and citizens are suffering. These are places of remedy like consumer forums and daily life is affected.”
The SC reiterated that timelines laid down in its August 11 order should be complied with and the appointment process should not be affected by the Bombay High Court ruling.
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