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Supreme Court directs all state governments and UTs to fill up vacancies in the SCDRC within 8 weeks

The Bench also points out that there are only 4 out of 7 vacancies have been filled up in the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission and questions the counsel Aman Lekhi, ASG that, “if you can appoint 4 people, why can’t you appoint 7 people? You should have appointed 7 people. When will you appoint?”

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The Supreme Court today has directed all the State Governments and Union Territories to fill up the vacancies in the State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commissions within 8 weeks.

The Bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Hrishikesh Roy directed the Central Government to fill up the vacancies in the National Consumer dispute Redressal Commission within 8weeks.

There are 7 vacancies in the national forum. “If we have asked the states to fill vacancies, we must ask the Centre too. You raise hopes, aspirations that grievances of the public will be addressed and then you go by it. Don’t create hopes if you are unable to deal with it,” said the bench to ASG Aman Lekhi appearing for the Centre.

The Bench also points out that there are only 4 out of 7 vacancies have been filled up in the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission and questions the counsel Aman Lekhi, ASG that, “if you can appoint 4 people, why can’t you appoint 7 people? You should have appointed 7 people. When will you appoint?”

The ASG replied that he has written to the Ministry and will move them to make early appointments. He also said that the appointments need to be in line with the recently passed Tribunals Reforms Bill 2021 to which the court stated that “There are a total of 3 vacancies now. We’re in the view that there is no reason why Central government should take more time, therefore schedule laid down for the state would equally apply for Central government.”

The Court was hearing the Suo-moto case concerning the issue of unfilled vacancies in the consumer commissions and the inaction of the Governments in appointing the President, Members and respective staff of various District and State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions across India.

During the hearing today, Amicus submitted a report containing the statistics of the number of vacancies unfilled in the States. Through which, the bench questioned each counsel appearing on behalf of the States and slams several states for not filling a large number of vacancies in District & State Consumer forums. It was further observed that some states and Union territories have not set up their selection committee yet, the court directed them to do so within 4weeks. 

The court directed to all the states and UTs that, “In the view of large vacancies, we direct all existing and potential vacancies are advertised, if not done already, within 2weeks.”

Also Read: Supreme Court lashes out at Centre for not appointing High Court Judges

It was observed by the bench, that some states have given the excuses that selection is held up as the number of posts has not been sanctioned in consultation with Central Government. The bench rejected this excuse given by the States by observing that as per the mandate of Section 42 of the Consumer Protection Act,  consultation with the Central Government is required only if the number of members is more than 4. Some of the states have not notified the rules of Section 44 of the said act. List of these are: –

1. We direct the states to notify the rules within 2 weeks from today.

2. In order to take care of the position, we are still inclined on the issue of notifying the rules, we further direct that in the individuality the rules under section 44 of the said act are not being notified within 2weeks, the model rules of the Government of India will apply to the concerned state and UTs.  Consumer Protection (Salary, allowances and conditions of service of President and Members of the State Commission and District Commission) Model Rules, 2020

3. In view of a large number of vacancies, we direct all existing and potential vacancies should be advertised, if not advertised, within 2weeks in regard with the vacancies reflected in the chart as prepared by the amicus

4. It appears that some of the states and UTs have not set up the selection committee. The State and UTs are directed to set up selection committee within 4weeks from today

5. All the vacancies whether for the post of president or members should be filled up by the States and UTs within a max period of 8 weeks from today. 

Also Read: NEET-MDS: Supreme Court disposes of BDS degree holders’ plea on delay in counselling date

“The legislative mandate is for each and every forum to have President & 4 members. Only when the numbers are more than that can they be prescribed in consultation with the Central Government. That process cannot derail the process of appointment of President & 4 members,” the bench stated.

The bench also discussed in regard to infrastructure and manpower requirements which is the state’s responsibility to handle it and observed that most affidavits are being filed last minute.

“We direct that updated position be furnished to the Amicus within 10 days from today,” said the Court. 

The Matter would now be heard on 15th November 2021. —

-By Ritika Gaur

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