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Consumer commissions and their respective jurisdiction

INTRODUCTION

Before dwelling into the jurisdiction of consumer commissions it is important to know who the consumer is. Any person who buys goods or hires or avails of a service for a consideration that is paid, promised, partly paid, partly promised or any system of deferred payment is called a consumer. The act of service needs to be intangible and a process between the service provider and service recipient. Services as per section 2(1)(o) of the Consumer Protection Act, and MRTP Act means and includes – banking, financing, insurance, transport, processing, supply of electric energy, board or lodging or both, entertainment, amusement, or purveying of news or other information excluding those rendered free of charge or personal services.

Any user of these goods (with the approval of the buyer) or beneficiary of hired services can also be called a consumer. However, it does not include a person who buys goods or avails services for resale or commercial purposes. Commercial purposes exclude people who are self-employed and obtain goods/services exclusively for earning a livelihood. The good/service must be used by the buyer himself.

 

CONSIDERATION BY CONSUMER

For a person to be termed a ‘consumer’, consideration for a particular service is essential. This was established in cases like Byford v. S.S. Srivastava where the plaintiff was not given the tickets because he only considered the car and not for tickets. It was also reinforced in the case of Mayor, Calcutta Municipal Corporation v. Tarapada Chatterjee where taxes were not considered part of the consideration. Thus the plaintiff was not taken as a consumer.

 

JURISDICTION

Jurisdiction in law is the authority of a court to hear and determine cases that are exercised within particular limits. It is important to have a set jurisdiction for each court so that there is no confusion in the citizens and to divide the work of courts in the country. The jurisdiction of courts are mainly categorized in three broad categories i.e. territorial, pecuniary and appellate jurisdiction. Let us look at the different jurisdictions of consumer redressal commissions as per the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.

 

TERRITORIAL JURISDICTION

Territorial jurisdiction is the areal jurisdiction of any entity, as per the Consumer Protection Act 2019, there are District consumer redressal Commissions established at district level, State consumer redressal commission at the state level and National consumer dispute redressal commission at the national level. There are several considerations taken into account to identify the territorial jurisdiction of a consumer commission at all the levels to file a consumer complaint.

The territorial jurisdiction of the National Consumer Dispute Redressal & State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission is very simple as they only act as appellate bodies. The state Consumer Dispute Redressal Commissions acts as appellate bodies against the orders of the District commissions of their respective states. The National Consumer Commission acts as appellate bodies against the orders of the State Consumer Commissions.

 

Let us now understand the provisions that deal with determining the territorial jurisdiction to file a complaint in a District Consumer Redressal Commission: –

  1. A consumer complaint can be instituted in a District commission where the opposite party ordinarily or voluntarily, resides or carries on business or has a branch office or personally works for gain.

  2. Where the cause of action arose wholly or in part.

  3. The complainant resides or personally works for gain.

To file a consumer complaint, any of the above-mentioned jurisdictions could be affixed by the complainant to choose the appropriate commission in filing the case.

 

PECUNIARY JURISDICTION

Pecuniary jurisdiction of any court is the power of court to admit and try cases on the basis of the monetary extent. There is a monetary range defined as per law which plays important role in determining the jurisdiction to initiate any case.

The latest amendment in 2021 has laid down the following range to determine the pecuniary jurisdiction to file a consumer complaint: –

  1. Jurisdiction of District Commission: The District Commission shall have jurisdiction to entertain complaints where the value of the goods or services paid as consideration does not exceed fifty lakh rupees.

  2. Jurisdiction of State Commission: The State Commission shall have jurisdiction to entertain complaints where the value of the goods or services paid as consideration exceeds fifty lakh but does not exceed two crore rupees.

  3. Jurisdiction of National Commission: The National Commission shall have jurisdiction to entertain complaints where the value of the goods or services paid as consideration, exceeds two crore rupees

APPELLATE JURISDICTION

The appellate jurisdiction of a court or commission is the power to take up appeals against the order of the courts or commissions subordinate to them. As per the Indian consumer law, the State and National consumer both have original as well as appellate jurisdiction.

  1. Appeal against the order of the District Commission: If any person is unsatisfied from the order of the district commission, they can appeal to the State commission of their state within 45 days from the passing of the order.

  2. Appeal against the order of the State Commission: If any person is unsatisfied from the order of the State commission, they can appeal to the National commission within 30 days from the passing of the order.

  3. Appeal against the order of the National Commission: If any person is unsatisfied from the order of the National Commission, they can appeal to the Supreme court of India within 30 days from the passing of the order.

 

LIMITATION PERIOD

A limitation period is the period within which a party to a contract or a party who has suffered damages because of another party’s conduct, must bring a claim.

In the consumer cases the limitation period to file a complaint is 2 years from when the cause of action arises. This means that any complaint made after passing of 2 years from the date of the cause of action will not be admitted in any consumer commission.

 

NOTE: The law has not allowed the commissions to admit any appeal or fresh complaint that is time barred, but the statute states that if there is a genuine reason for the delay, the commission can still take up the cases that are barred by limitation for both the appeal as well as a new complaint.

CONCLUSION

A consumer is the most crucial and sensitive element of a market. Protecting the right of consumers in a country like India is therefore important. These rights are administered under the Consumer Protection Act 2019. This Act of 2019 repealed the Consumer protection Act of 1986. From 2019, there were many other rules and regulations passed by the ministry of consumer affairs to save the consumer from exploitation from misleading advertisements, unfair trade practice. The act also promotes mediation as a medium to resolve disputes between the consumers and companies.

REFERENCE BOOKS

Consumer Protection Act Commentary – https://amzn.to/48FEQi7

 

 

Consumer Protection Act Bare Act – https://amzn.to/45gfS6e

 

 

Law of Torts by Ratanlal & Dhirajlal – https://amzn.to/451jPf3

Law of Torts by Dr. RK Bangia – https://amzn.to/3LiHvEB

 

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