The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), India is a quasi-judicial commission in India which was set up under the Consumer Protection Act of 1986. Its head office is located in New Delhi. The commission is headed either by a sitting or by a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India.
Concept of Consumer Dispute Redressal Agencies and Consumer Council
The Consumer Councils are created to advice and aid the consumers in seeking and accomplishing their rights. We have Consumer Protection Councils both at Centre level and State level i.e. one Central Council and many State Councils. These councils work towards the advancement and safety of consumers.
They make investigations and give attention to the matters concerning consumer interests, take steps towards furthering consumer education and protecting the consumer from exploitation, advice the Government in the matter of policy formulation keeping consumer interest as a central concern, etc.
Redressal Forums Have Been Established at Three Different Levels
• “District Forum” by State Government. At least one in each district or in certain cases one District Forum may cover 2 or more districts.
• “State Commission” by State Government.
• “National Commission” (National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission)
Composition and Mechanism of Redressal Agencies
This shall consist of –
1. A person who is or has been a Judge of the Supreme Court, who shall be its President. (No appointment under this clause shall be made except after discussion with the Chief Justice of India).
2. 4 other members (qualifications: As for District Forum /State Commission).
Sitting of the National Commission – The disputes must be disposed of by at least three members of the National Commission, one of whom must be the president (or the senior most member authorized to work as president).
Where the member(s) for any reason are unable to conduct the proceeding till it is completed, the president (or the senior most member acting as president) shall conduct the proceeding again.
Grievance Redressal Procedure and Limitation For Filing Complaints
Procedure to be followed by the National Commission [Section 22] –
Section 22 of the Act provides that the National Commission shall follow such procedure as approved by the Central Government. The Consumer Protection Rules, 1987 framed by the Central Government lay down the procedure which is as follows:
(1) A complaint containing the following particulars as discussed above shall be presented by the complainant/claimant in person or by his agent to the National Commission or to be sent by registered post that is addressed to the National Commission:
a) The name, description and the address of the complain¬ant;
b) The name, description, and address of the opposite party or parties, as the case may be, so far as they can be determined;
c) The facts relating to the complaint and when and where it arose;
d) Documents in support of the charges contained in the complaint;
e) The relief which the complainant claims.
(2) The National Commission shall, in the dumping of any complaint before it, as far as possible, follow the procedures laid down under Section 13 of the Act.
(3) On the date of the hearing, it shall be compulsory on the parties or their agents to appear before the National Commission. Where the complainant or his agent fails to appear, the National Commission may either reject the complaint about nonpayment or decide the matter on merits. Where the opposite party or its agent fails to appear on the date of the hearing, the National Commission may decide the complaint ex parte (without listening to the other side).
(4) The complaint shall be decided as far as possible within a period of three months from the date of notice received by opposite party where the complaint does not require inquiry or testing of goods and within five months if it requires inquiry or testing of products.
(5) After the proceedings, the National Commission shall issue the orders accordingly.
2. If the relief claimed in the complaint is less than Rs. 20, 00,000/-, then the complaint must be filed before the District Consumer Forum.
If the relief claimed is between Rs. 20, 00,000/- and Rs. 1, 00, 00,000/-, then the complaint must be filed before the State Commission.
When the relief request exceeds Rs. 1, 00, 00,000/- then the complaint must be filed before the National Commission at New Delhi. However, see point 6(j) for more details regarding the administration of the Consumer Courts.
3. A ‘prescribed fee’ is payable for filing a complaint before the District Forum, State Commission or National Commission as follows:
Up to 1 lakh – Rs.100/-
1 lakh to 5 lakhs – Rs.200/-
5 lakhs to 10 lakhs – Rs.400/-
10 lakhs to 20 lakhs – Rs.500/-
4. It can be paid by Demand Draft in favor of “President, State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, and Chennai.”
5. The complainant can present his / her complaint in person or by his / her authorized representative to the District Forum / State Commission. There is no need for a lawyer or consumer group to represent the claimant.
6. The complaint can be sent by Registered Post to the District Forum/ State Commission. A minimum of 5 copies of the complaint has to be filed. These 5 copies include three copies for the Forum in green (Court) paper plus one for the Office of the Forum and one for the opposite other parties. Do remember to keep one copy for yourself. A supplementary copy for each additional opposite party has to be filed. Since the Forum / Commission has the power to pass ex parte orders or dismiss your complaint, please assure that you carry out regular follow-up or check after filing the complaint. Every hearing date has to be attended to prevent any damage or injury to the complaint.
7. The complaint should be signed by you, the complainant. If you are empowering someone to represent you, give him / her signed authorization letter. In the event of the death of a complainant, his/her legal heir or representative can continue as a complainant.