The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 provides for establishment of a three-tier quasi-judicial redressal machinery for consumer grievances. The second-tier of the Redressal Mechanism is at the State level which is called the State Commission.
Composition of State Commission –
Section 16 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 empowers the State Government to establish the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.
Each State Commission shall consist of –
(a) a person who is or has been a judge of a High Court appointed by the State Government who shall be its President. Such appointment shall be in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court.
(b) not less than two and not more than such number of members, as may be prescribed, one of whom shall be a woman, who shall have the following qualifications, namely –
(i) be not less than thirty-five years of age.
(ii) possess a bachelor’s degree from a recognized university, and
(iii) be persons of ability, integrity and standing, and have adequate knowledge and experience of at least ten years in dealing with problems relating to economics, law, commerce, accountancy, industry, public affairs or administration.
It is required that not more than fifty per cent of the members should be from the judicial background. “Persons having judicial background” shall mean persons having knowledge and experience for at least a period of ten years as a presiding officer at the district level court or any tribunal at equivalent level.
A person shall be disqualified for appointment as a member if he –
(a) had been convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for an offence, which, in the opinion of the State Government involves moral turpitude; or
(b) is an undischarged insolvent; or
(c) is of unsound mind and stands so declared by a competent court; or
(d) has been removed or dismissed from service of the Government or a body corporate owned or controlled by the Government; or
(e) has in the opinion of the State Government, such financial or other interest, as is likely to affect prejudicially the discharge by him of his functions as a member; or
(f) has such other disqualifications as may be prescribed by the State Government.
Selection Committee –
Every appointment shall be made by the State Government on the recommendation of a Selection Committee. Such Selection Committee shall consist of the following members –
(i) President of the State Commission – Chairman;
(ii) Secretary of the Law Department of the State – Member;
(iii) Secretary incharge of the Department dealing with the Customer Affairs in the State – Member;
Where the President of the State Commission is, by reason of absence or otherwise, unable to act as Chairman of the Selection Committee, the State Government may refer the matter to the Chief Justice of the High Court for nominating a sitting Judge of that High Court to act as a Chairman.
The Act empowers the State Government to decide on the salary or honorarium and other allowances payable to the members of the State Commission and other terms and conditions of service.
Every member of the State Commission shall hold office for a term of five years or upto the age of sixty-seven years, whichever is earlier. The members shall be eligible for reappointment for another term of five years or upto the age of sixty-seven years, whichever is earlier. Such reappointment shall be made on the basis of recommendation of the Selection Committee.
Jurisdiction of State Commission –
Section 17 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 provides for the jurisdiction of the State Commission as follows –
(a) the State Commission can entertain complaints where the value of goods or services and the compensation, if any, claimed exceed rupees twenty lakhs but does not exceed rupees one crore;
(b) the State Commission also has the jurisdiction to entertain appeals against the orders of any District Forum within the State. However, no appeal by a person, who is required to pay any amount in terms of an order of the District Forum, shall be entertained by the State Commission unless the appellant has deposited in the prescribed manner fifty percent of the amount or rupees twenty-five thousand, whichever is less;
(c) the State Commission also has the power to call for the records and pass appropriate orders in any consumer dispute which is pending before or has been decided by any District Forum within the State, if it appears to it that such District Forum has exercised any power not vested in it by law or has failed to exercise a power rightfully vested in it by law or has acted illegally or with material irregularity.
A complaint shall be instituted in a State Commission within the limits of whose jurisdiction –
(a) the opposite party or each of the opposite parties, where there are more than one, at the time of the institution of the complaint, actually and voluntarily resides or carries on business or has a branch office or personally works for gain; or
(b) any of the opposite parties, where there are more than one, at the time of the institution of the complaint, actually and voluntarily resides, or carries on business or has a branch office or personally works for gain, provided that in such case either the permission of the State Commission is given or the opposite parties who do not reside or carry on business or have a branch office or personally work for gain, as the case may be, acquiesce in such institution; or
(c) the cause of action, wholly or in part, arises.
Constitution of Benches –
The jurisdiction, powers and authority of the State Commission may be exercised by Benches.
A Bench may be constituted by the President with one or more members as the President may deem fit.
If the members of a Bench differ in opinion on any point, the points shall be decided according to the opinion of the majority, if there is a majority. But if the Members are equally divided, they shall state the point or points on which they differ, and make a reference to the President who shall –
(i) either hear the point or points himself or
(ii) refer the case for hearing on such point or points by one or more or the other members and such point or points shall be decided according to the opinion of the majority of the members who have heard the case, including those who first heard it.
Transfer of Cases –
Section 17A of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 empowers the State Commission on the application of the complainant or of its own motion to transfer, at any stage of the proceeding any compliant pending before the District Forum to another District Forum, within the State if the interest of justice so requires.
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