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Jurisdiction under Consumer Courts in India

Jurisdiction under Consumer Courts

Jurisdiction under Consumer Courts

The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is a social legislation which lays down the provisions for the rights of the consumers and protecting the rights through a due procedure of law. It seeks to provide the consumers with a less expensive and speedy redressal of their grievances against defective goods and services that do not meet the standards. As stated popularly, “The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 makes the dictum, Caveat Emptor (‘Buyer Beware’) a thing of the past. Jurisdiction under Consumer Courts.

What is the Hierarchy of Consumer Courts Laid Down by the Consumer Act in India?

The Act provides for the establishment of quasi-judicial bodies which shall provide inexpensive and speedy redressal of consumer disputes. Thus, a 3-tier structure has been set up in the country as follows

  1. District Forum at each District;
  2. State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions at the State level, and
  3. National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission at the National level.

At present, there are more than 620 District Forums and more than 30 State Commissions. The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) at the apex is situated at Delhi.

What is the Pecuniary Jurisdiction followed by the Consumer Forums?

As per the Act, the pecuniary Jurisdiction:

  1. For the District Consumer Forum, is a value of up to Rupees twenty lakhs,
  2. For the State Commission, is a value up to Rupees one crore,
  3. For the National Commission, is a value above Rupees one crore.

How to Determine the Valuation for the Purpose of Deciding the Forum to be Approached?  

It has been consistently held that for the purpose of pecuniary jurisdiction, it is the value of the good and/or services which should be considered. It is not the deficiencies, the value of the cost of removing the deficiency, advance payment or any other aspect to be considered for the purpose of determining the pecuniary jurisdiction. It was also settled that interest forms a part of compensation.

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What is the Territorial Jurisdiction of Consumer Courts?

  1. A complaint may be made to the District Forum, State Commission or National Commission while considering the pecuniary jurisdiction. A complaint may be filed in the For a within whose local limits:
    1. The opposite party, or when more than one respondent, then each of the parties, voluntarily resides or carries on business. The party may have a branch office or personally works for gain in the local limits; or
    2. The cause of action arises, whether wholly or partially

For the purpose of establishing where the cause of action arises, it can be correlated with the Contract Act, the principles of which apply to the Consumer Protection Act as well. It can thus be stated that for the purpose of consumer complaints, relating to normal contracts for services and/or goods, the cause of action shall arise at any of the following places,

  1. Where the contract is made;
  2. Where acceptance of the contract is communicated;
  3. Where the contract is performed or shall be performed;
  4. Where the consideration as per the contract is either paid or payable;
  5. Where the repudiation of the contract, if any, is received.

How will the Territorial Jurisdiction be Decided when Performing an Online Transaction?

Online transactions have become an integral part of our living. When a buyer seeks redressal against any suppliers/ service providers who have a web presence, the lines of territorial jurisdiction fade away. In such cases, these quasi-judicial bodies have stepped up to the aid of the consumer until the legislation clears up the situation. The emails exchanged between the parties which are online, through the internet, constitutes a contract. Thus, the cause of action can arise at multiple places. According to a Landmark judgment, the territorial jurisdiction over a consumer complaint in an online transaction shall lie at any of the multiple places, where the cause of action arises, which can be where the consumer resides.

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Is the Judgment of a Consumer Court Appealable?

Yes. If a consumer is not satisfied by the decision of a District Forum, the State Commission has the jurisdiction to hear the appeal against it. Against any order of the State Commission, the National Commission can be approached by the consumer. A consumer aggrieved by the order of National Commission can prefer an appeal to the Supreme Court within a period of thirty days from the date of the order

The appeals can be filed within a period of 30 days.

Can a Civil Court be Approached for Consumer Matter?

Yes, the Act does not eliminate the powers of the civil court, but only seeks to provide a more efficient redressal mechanism. It was observed by the National Commission that the jurisdiction of the Consumer forum cannot be ousted solely on the account of a Civil Suit instituted by the respondent, which is not the case where the person has already approached a Civil Court.

How to file a Consumer Complaint?

  1. A Consumer complaint has to be filed in writing and can be filed on a plain paper, instead of stamp paper.
  2. It must contain the complete details of the parties, the transaction, the goods and the defect/ deficiency, the compensation and relief sought. All the related documents must also be affixed along with.
  3. The complaint can be registered by the consumer, in person or through any authorized agent, or by registered post.
  4. There is no requirement to engage a lawyer and the consumer can appear for himself.
  5. A nominal amount of fee shall accompany every complaint as specified in the table below. It shall be in the form of crossed Demand Draft, drawn on a nationalized bank or through a crossed Indian Postal Order which should be drawn in favor of the Registrar.
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S. No. Total Value of goods and/or services and the compensation claimed (in INR) Amount of fee payable (in INR)
District Forum
1. Up to one lakh, for complainants below, are Below Poverty Line (upon producing an attested copy of “Antyodaya Anna Yojana” card) Nil
2. Up to one lakh for the remaining complainants. 100
3. Above one lakh and up to five lakh 200
4. Above five lakh and up to ten lakh 400
5. Above ten lakh and up to twenty lakh 500
State Commission
1. Above twenty lakh and up to fifty lakh 2000
2. Above fifty lakh and up to one crore 4000
National Commission
1. Above one crore 5000

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