Statutory Mechanism of Consumer Protection Act 2019 not efficiently implemented in State: PIL in Kerala HC

Statutory Mechanism of Consumer Protection Act 2019 not efficiently implemented in State: PIL in Kerala HC

A PIL has been moved by a practising lawyer Advocate R.V. Sreejith and Advocate Rinu S. Aswan in Kerala High Court alleging that the rights of the consumers and their right to access to justice is affected by the fact that statutory mechanism and the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 are not implemented in the State efficiently. The plea was thus admitted by the Division Bench of Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chalu and has now been moved for consideration on 11 November. 

In the state of Kerala, the State and District Consumer Commissions have failed to appoint officers and personnel as required by law. The State government is required by the Act to determine the types and categories of officers and other staff who will assist the State Commission. A similar duty has been imposed on the District Commissions under Section 33.

Similarly, the Consumer Protection Mediation Rules, 2020 stipulate that the mediation cell must have support staff, which can be determined by the President of the Commission in consultation with the government concerned. The Act also provides for mediation in the preliminary stages, and it is the responsibility of the state to set up a consumer mediation cell with each district and each state commission in accordance with Section 79.

However, it has been argued that the state has not yet recruited enough staff to enforce or carry out these orders. Section 71 of the Act declares all the orders of the commission are to be enforced in the same manner as if it is a civil decree. The PIL also claims, however, that the state government has not yet set up such mediation cells and that no auxiliary staff is made available in the state or district commissions.

The law also provides for the establishment of consumer protection councils at the state and district level to advise on the promotion and protection of consumer rights. Another concern expressed by the petitioner relates to the failure to comply with orders from the commissions, but the petitioner indicated that no police staff had yet been deployed to the commission for the effective application of this provision. A judicial procedure within the meaning of Section 193 and 228 of IPC is initiated before the district commission.