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Consumer courts have been established under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.


The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (here in after to be referred to as the 'Act')   is one of the benevolent  social legislation intended to protect the large body of consumers from exploitation.  The Act has come as a panacea for consumers all over the  country  and   has  assumed the shape of practically the most important legislation  enacted in  the  country during the last few years.  It has become  the  vehicle  for   enabling   people  to  secure speedy and in-expensive redressal of their grievances.  With the enactment of this law, consumers now feel that they are in a position to declare "sellers be aware" whereas previously the consumers were   at  the  receiving  end and generally told "buyers be aware".


The Act postulates establishment of Central Consumer Protection Council and the State Consumer Protection Councils for the purpose of spreading consumer awareness.   Central Council is headed by Minster, in charge of the Consumer Affairs in the Central Government and in the State it is the Minister in charge of the Consumer Affairs in the State Government who heads State Council.

To provide cheap, speedy and simple redressal to consumer disputes, quasi-judicial machinery is set up at each District, State and National levels called District Forums, State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission and National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission respectively.   At present, there are 604 District Forums, 35 State Commissions with apex body as a National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC)  having its office at Janpath Bhawan, A Wing, 5th Floor,  Janpath, New Delhi.  

The District Forums are headed by the person who is or has been or is  eligible to be appointed as a District Judge and the State Commissions are headed by a person who is or has been a Judge of  High Court.

National Commission was constituted in the year, 1988.  It is headed by a sitting or retired  Judge of the Supreme Court of India.  National Commission is presently  headed by Hon'ble Mr. Justice M.B. Shah, former Judge of the Supreme Court of India as President and having five Members, viz. Mrs. Rajyalakshmi Rao,   Mr. B.K. Taimni,  Hon'ble Mr. Justice K. S. Gupta, Hon'ble Mr. Justice S.N. Kapoor & Dr. P. D. Shenoy.    Hon'ble Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, Government of India has inaugurated the Additional Bench of the National Commission on 24th September, 2003 .
The provisions of this Act cover 'Products' as well as 'Services'.  The products are those which are manufactured or produced and sold to consumers through wholesalers and retailers.  The services are of the nature of transport, telephones, electricity, constructions, banking, insurance, medical treatment etc. etc.  The services are, by and large,  include those provided by professionals such as Doctors, Engineers, Architects, Lawyers  etc.

A written complaint, as amended by Consumer Protection (Amendment) Act, 2002, can be filed before the District Consumer  Forum (upto Rupees twenty lakhs), State Commission (upto Rupees  One crore), National Commission ( above  Rupees One crore)   in relation to a product or in respect of a service, but does not include rendering of any service free of cost or under a contract of personal service.  The service can be of any description, the illustrations given above are  only indicative and  not   exhaustive.

The Consumer Protection Act is an alternative and cheapest remedy already available to the aggrieved persons/consumers by way of civil suit. In the complaint/appeal/petition submitted under the Act, a consumer is not  required   to pay any court fees or even process fee.
Proceedings are summary in nature and endeavour is made to  grant relief to the parties in the quickest possible time keeping in mind the spirit of the Act  which provides for disposal of the cases within possible time schedule prescribed under the Act.
If a consumer is not satisfied by the decision of the District Forum, he can challenge the same before the State Commission and against the order of the State Commission a consumer can come to the National Commission. 
In order to attain the objects of the Consumer Protection Act, the National Commission has also been conferred with the powers of administrative control over all the State Commissions by calling for periodical returns regarding the institution, disposal and pendency of cases.  National Commission is empowered to issue instructions regarding, (1) adoption of uniform  procedure in the hearing of the matters; (2) prior service of copies of documents produced by one party to the opposite parties; (3) speedy grant of copies of documents; and (4)  generally over-seeing the functioning of the State Commissions or the District Forums to ensure that the objects and purposes of the Act are best served without  in any way interfering with their quasi-judicial freedom. 

The Registry of the National Commission, is on 7th Floor, 'B' Wing, Janpath Bhawan, Janpath, New Delhi which remains open  on all working days except  Sundays, Saturdays and Central Govt. holidays. For any enquiry from the Registry of the National Commission, one can contact on Telephone Nos. 011-23712109, 23712459, 23389248 and Fax No. 23712456.    The filing timings are from 10.00 A.M. to 5.00 P.M.   Every matter filed with the Registry in person  is listed on 7th day of its filing for admission before  the National Commission.  Functioning of District Forum, State Commission and National Commission is consumer friendly, and thus consumer can file  complaint and can address  arguments in person.  In genuine cases where the parties are unable to engage the services of an advocate Bar Association of NCDRC also provides legal aid to needy. ( Source: WEBSITE of National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission)


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