Good Governance and Citizen's Charter
Acknowledging good governance as an exemplary aim, the role of Charters was vigorously debated. Concern over lack of commitment and interest in the matter shown by MPs and media, resulting in the non-implementation of Charters, was expressed. Successful cases of cheap and effective publication and mass distribution of Charters in Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu were set forth as good examples. The need for advocacy and lobbying with policymakers to ensure continuation of delivery was recognized. The role of right to relevant and precise information, transparency and accountability of public funds as the essential elements of good governance was discussed.
Role of Women in the Consumer Movement
The workshop started by recognizing the vital role played by women by being on the vanguard of the consumer movement since the Chipko movement in 1976 and beyond. Women have been spearheading resistance against issues such as breast milk substitutes and environmental exploitation. The plight of women exploited through dubious investment schemes, the beauty business and advertising was also brought to light. Reminding everyone that 85 percent of purchases are made by women in the household, the speaker called upon women to use their experiential knowledge as a means of change in society.
Service Standard in Banking Sector
The following areas were mainly in focus during the workshop:
The context for this workshop was provided by the need to organize educational workshops for the benefit of common investors, particularly the small ones. Several common difficulties faced by investors today (e.g. while dealing in shares and the steps taken by the Kolkata Stock Exchange) were discussed. Issues relating to fraudulent investment companies and non-banking financial institutions were also discussed.
The speakers expressed genuine enthusiasm for holding and participating in 'investor workshops' in the future.
Rural Consumer and Social Justice
This Workshop tried to highlight some of the severest problems faced by the rural consumer and the poor. Wide spread maladies and malpractices like adulteration, substandard PDS supplies and housing materials, under-weighing and over-pricing of essential commodities in the rural markets were pointed out. The necessity of vigilant committees to monitor prices and law awareness camps in rural areas to protest injustice was stressed.
Other proposals included General Insurance Company for insuring cattle, banks to release entire sanction amount, adequacy of scheme money, harassment of rural consumers.
New Indian Competition Law and its Impact on consumers
Competition, Competition Law, Competition Authority (administrative and investigative) and Competition Watchdog were the key points discusses in the workshops. The need for new Competition Law for India was expressed in view of the changing economic scenario in a globalizing world, especially given the competition abuses that common consumers are facing today.
Other issues included initiatives taken by the Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS), the need for action on anti-dumping and safety standards.
Consumer Product Testing and Consumer Awareness
Various processes involved in comparative testing and their implications were explained in detail. Test programs involving research institutions and manufacturers, market surveys along with sampling and coding procedures were among the issues discussed.
Allegation of Complainant was that the Municipal Council, Water Supply and Sewerage Board had laid down pipes just in front of the house of Complainant for flushing water of drains and sewerage and it had damaged her house. The pipe was lengthy, but just in front of house of Complainant; it had been damaged and leaking out water and refuse etc., which had gone into walls of Complainant's house. It had damaged cracked and spoilt upto 14 feet of Complainant's house walls. The walls were wet with saline water which had made the front portion of house dangerous for living due to fear of coming down at any time and causing loss of life and property. A complaint was filed with District Forum for replacing defective pipes, compensation of Rs. 25,000/- for damage done to house and costs for complaint.
Decision of District Forum
District Forum dismissed Complaint by holding that Complainant was not a Consumer and, thus, no relief could be granted to her. Complainant holds a sewerage connection. She can be called a consumer only if she can be considered having hired services of opposite' parties for proper maintenance of sewerage connection.
Decision of Punjab Commission
Factual position in regard to:
Placed on record have not been considered at all while holding by District Forum that Complainant was not a Consumer.
State Commission has held in another case that Complainant therein had been paying water and sewerage charges to opposite parties for last so many years and she was entitled to all civic amenities provided under Punjab Municipal Act and therefore, she fell within definition of 'Consumer' under Consumer Protection Act. In that State Commission had directed O.Ps to rectify defects in drainage and sewerage system and it was held that Complainant was a 'Consumer'.
Honorable Supreme Court ruled that a Government or Semi-Government body or local authority was as such amendable to Consumer Protection Act as any other private body rendering similar service. Relevant portion of order of Supreme Court reads as under:
"A Government body or Semi-Government body or a local authority is as much amendable to the Act as any other private body rendering similar service. Truly speaking, it would be a service to the society if such bodies instead of claiming exclusion subject themselves to the Act and let their acts and omissions scrutinized as public accountability is necessary for healthy growth of society."
State Commission holds that, in the case in hand, it could not be held by D.F. that Complainant was not 'Consumer' of O.Ps Case remanded back for decision taking into consideration factual position on record.
An Engineering Graduate, doing business in partnership with his wife and running a small-scale industry for programming geometrical profiles, purchased a computer against 100% payment by cheque for Rs. 1,32,000/-. At the time of installation the colour monitor and certain other accessories were not provided with a promise to supply them soon. Complainant waits for some time and after two months and then asks the supplier to either supply the colour monitor or to refund the amount.
Defence in regard to Non-Supply of Colour Monitor
Order of State Commission
Hon'ble State Commission directed to:
Refund the price of computer i.e. Rs. 1,32,000/- along with interest @ 15% till date of payment and cost of Rs. 1,500/-. Appeal filed before National Commission.
Observations of National Commission
Order of National Commission
Order of State Commission is modified to the extent that complainant shall return the computer within 7 days of receipt of amount directed to be paid which must be done within a period of four weeks. Cost fixed at Rs. 3, 00/- to the complainant.
Amount of Money sent by Telegraphic order did not reach payee at all despite furnishing full address of payee.
Stand of Post Office
There is complete immunity from liability for loss, mis-delivery or delay or damage caused in postal transmission. There was no fraudulent or willful act on the part of Post Office. Reliance placed on S.6 Post Office Act, 1898.
Decision of District Forum (DF)
DF directed Post Office to return telegraphic money order amount with interest @ 12% from date of sending money order till payment, return money order charges, and to pay compensation of Rs. 2,000 far mental agony and anguish suffered. Pay within 30 days otherwise pay interest @ 18% for award amount.
Decision of Tamil Nadu State Commission on appeal by the Post Office
What material required to point out practice of fraud or willful act or default.
What sort of proof on such aspects required to mulct liability either on Government or any officer of Post Office.
Complainant cannot be expected to have any sort of knowledge as relatable to further acts done by Post Office in dispatch of money order form and other related matters for payment to addressee.
It is for Post Office to furnish particulars to enable Post Office of addressee to effect payment of money order by personnel of Post Office of addressee in as much as those details are exclusively within personal knowledge of Post Office.
Section 106 of Evidence Act states when any fact is especially within knowledge of any person, burden of providing that fact is upon him. Thus, it is for Post Office to divulge all information within their exclusive knowledge for making payment of money due to the addressee of money order.
There is total absence of proof on part of Post Office on such aspect of matter. As such adverse inference is to be drawn (S. 114(g) Evidence Act) to the effect that evidence which could be and is not produced, if produced, be unfavourable to person who withholds it. Hence committal of fraud / willful act defaults by Post Office resulting in non-payment of money order.
As decided by D.F. but compensation of Rs. 2,000 disallowed as both interest and compensation not in accordance with law.
Appeal before National Commission
Arjan Singh was denied registration for gas connection, initially, by a gas agency on the ground that Umri lies outside Municipal limits hence outside his service area and, subsequently, by two others, on the same ground. The latter arrived at the same conclusion based on inquiries made from the former gas agency.
The grouse is twofold:
First Gas connection was denied on wrong demise which is a deficiency in service while in fact Umri was within Municipal Limits;
Second, latter two instead of enquiring from Arjan Singh decided to enquire from former Gas agency.
As per Arjan Singh, these three gas agencies connived to deprive him the facility of gas connection.
Relief ordered by District Forum
Modification of order by State Commission
Hon'ble State Commission modified the order of District Forum to the extent of deleting Rs. 10,000 awarded as damages and costs.
Arjan Singh takes up the matter to National Commission.
Sukhwinder Singh had availed Accident Claim Policy. Sukhwinder met with an accident. He sustained injuries and after remaining in different hospitals died after 19 months.
Deceased lodged a claim immediately after accident. Insurance Company, one after another, appointed two separate Surveyors (Doctors at that) who visited the deceased at his residence. Whole of record is replete with details of injuries / fracture. Insurance Company is harping on the point that cause of death was jaundice and not the accident, but there is no proof on such. There is no death certificate giving the cause of death on record for Consumer Forum to examine the point. Insurance Company takes more than two years from date of preferring claim, and nine months from date of death, to repudiate claim.
Case of Insurance Company
Insurance Company repudiates claim on the ground that deceased, while taking policy, had concealed material facts relating to health that he had or was suffering from jaundice.
He was an alcoholic and had severe liver problem. He died on account of this ailment and not on account of accident. Sukhwinder was alcoholic and it was after such a bout that he was hit on the road. He had jaundice for a long time and he concealed this fact at the time of taking the policy.
Case of Widow Smt. Shavinder Kaur.
Both the Surveyors who visited deceased at his residence saw him in plaster- ridden bed; as a result of accident. He did not conceal any information at time of taking policy. Insurance Co. is unnecessarily trying to harass widow.
Dismissed the complaint.
State Commission allowed appeal of Shavinder Kaur.
Insurance Company and Shavinder, both, approached National Commission.
Insurance Company prays setting aside order of State Commission. Shavinder throws counter-blast and prays for enhancement of compensation from Rs. 1 lakh directed by State Commission.
Observations of National Commission
No material on record to show that deceased had jaundice at the time of taking policy; and, second, that this fact was within his knowledge. In order to lean on fact of concealment, Insurance Company has to prove its knowledge.
In any case, it was not a life policy but Accident Claim Policy.
Long delay of 2 years from date of accident and 9 months from date of death, to repudiate claim itself is a clear case of deficiency in service.
No interference in order of State Commission for payment of Rs. 1 Lakh, the insurance amount, with interest @ 12% effective from about 5 months from date of accident and costs of Rs. 2,000 awarded by State Commission. No revisions dismissed.