‘Access to justice’ is a basic tenet; if it is denied, consumers could haul up courts, says T.S. Thakur

Assailing the government for ignoring the demands of consumer courts for better infrastructure and staff, a Supreme Court judge on Thursday said if the consumers were to claim a “deficiency in service” on the part of the courts, then the government will be in trouble. To redress complaints of “deficiency in services and goods” is at the centre of the Consumer Protection Act of 1986.

“Create a situation in which the government is forced to take action. If it does on its own, it will be graceful but if it does not, then you can count on us to intervene. We have not disowned you,” Justice T.S. Thakur told the presidents and members of the National and States Consumer Fora on the eve of the World Consumer Rights Day.

Sharing the dais with Minister of State for Food K.V. Thomas and Special Secretary in Department of Consumer Affairs, the judge stressed that “access to justice” was a basic tenet and if consumer courts denied that to consumers for want of logistics, then consumers could haul up the courts on the ground of deficiency in service.

Bemoaning that annual recommendations to the government from august bodies such as consumer courts were ignored, Mr. Thakur said the government was “slow” and needed to “wake up from slumber” and give respect to the suggestions. He said it was fortunate that consumer awareness about their rights was inadequate in the country or else the unequipped courts would be besieged with complaints. “Jago grahak jago, the government advertises, but it is time that the government wakes up from slumber.”

Commenting on the observation of Mr. Thomas in his presidential address that media allow themselves to be misused through “misleading ads about beauty products and tonics,” Mr. Thakur said, “If you are worried about the media then when you give subsidised newsprint to the media why cannot you put a requirement for them to carry free ads on social issues such as drugs, dowry, consumer rights and so on. Let them have the social responsibility to pay back to the society.”

On his part, Mr. Thomas had observed that several States and union territories were found wanting in proactive efforts such as constituting a separate department for consumer affairs and setting up of state commissions, district fora and consumer protection councils. Urging them to utilise the financial assistance provided by the Centre to strengthen consumer protection mechanism in their States/UTs, he asked them to ensure that consumer fora were “consumer friendly” and “do not become like civil courts with litigations terrorising consumers from approaching them.”

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