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Consumer Protection Act and Medical Profession

Consumer Disputes Redressal Agencies

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 ) by Central Government.

District Forum

This shall consist of :

1. a person who is, or has been, or is qualified to be a District Judge, its President
2. two other members shall be persons of ability, integrity and standing and have adequate knowledge or experience or have shown capacity, in dealing with problems relating to economics, law, commerce,accountancy, industry, public affairs or administration,one of whom shall be a woman.

Jurisdiction of the District Forum

The District Forum shall have jurisdiction to entertain complaints where the value of services and compensation claimed does not exceed Rupees Five Lakhs. Manner in which complaint shall be made

A complaint may be filed with a District Forum by -

1. the consumer to whom such service is provided or is agreed to be provided;

2. any recognised consumer association, whether the consumer to whom the service is provided or is agreed to be provided is a member of such association or not ;

3. one or more consumers, where there are numerous consumers having the same interest, with the permission of the district forum, on behalf of or for the benefit of all consumers so interested ;

4. The Central or the State Government.

Procedure on receipt of Complaint

The District Forum shall on receipt of a complaint -

1. refer a copy of such complaint to the opposite party directing him to give his version of the case within a period of 30 days or such extended period not exceeding 15 days as may be granted by the District Forum ;

2. Where the opposite party, on receipt of a copy of the complaint, denies or disputes the allegations contained in the complaint, or omits or fails to take any action to represent his case within the time given by the District Forum, the District Forum shall proceed to settle the consumer dispute,

(i) On the basis of evidence brought to his notice by the complainant and the opposite party, where the opposite denies or disputes the allegations contained in the complaint ; or

(ii) On the basis of evidence brought to its notice by the complainant where the opposite party omits or fails to take any action to represent his case within the time given by the Forum ;

(iii) Where the complainant or his authorised agent fails to appear before the District Forum on such day, the District Forum may in its discretion either dismiss the complaint in default or if a substantial portion of the evidence of the complainant has already been recorded, decide it on merits. Where the opposite party or its authorised agent fails to appear on the day of hearing, the District Forum may decide the complaint ex-parte.

(iv) Where any party to a complaint to whom time has been granted fails to produce his evidence or to cause the attendance of his witnesses or to perform any other act necessary to the further progress of the complaint, for which time has been allowed, the District Forum may notwithstanding such default :-

(a) If the parties are present, proceed to decide the complaint forthwith ; or

(b) if the parties or any of them is absent, proceed as mentioned above in (b) (iii) ;

(v) The District Forum may, on such terms as it may think fit at any stage, adjourn the hearing of the complaint but not more than one adjournment shall ordinarily be given and the complaint should be decided within 90 days from the date of notice received by the opposite party where complaint does not require analysis or testing of the goods and within 150 days if it requires analysis or testing of the goods.

Findings of the District Forum

If, after the proceedings, the District Forum is satisfied that any of the allegations contained in the complaint about the services are proved, it shall issue an order to the opposite party directing him to do one or more of the following things :

1. To return to the complainant the charges paid.
2. Pay such amount as may be awarded by it as compensation to the consumer for any loss or injury suffered by the consumer due to the negligence of the opposite party.
3. To remove the deficiency in the services in question.
4. To provide for adequate costs to parties.

Appeal against orders of the Dist. Forum

Any person aggrieved by an order made by the District Forum may appeal against such order to the State Commission within a period of 30 days from the date of the order. The State Commission may entertain an appeal after 30 days if it is satisfied that there was sufficient cause for not filing it within that period.

State Commission

It shall consist of -

1. a person who is or has been a Judge of a High Court , who shall be its President ;
2. two other members ( as for District Forum).

Jurisdiction of the State Commission

The State Commission has jurisdiction to entertain -

1. Complaints where the value of services and compensation claimed exceeds rupees 5 lakhs but does not exceed rupees 20 lakhs;
2. appeals against the orders of any District Forum within the state ;
3. revision petitions against the District Forum.

Procedure to be followed by State Commission

Same as for District Forum.

Procedure for hearing appeals

The State Commission may, on such terms as it may think fit and at any stage, adjourn the hearing of appeal, but not more than one adjournment shall ordinarily be given and the appeal should be decided within 90 days from the first date of hearing.

Appeals against orders of State Commission

Any person aggrieved by an order made by the State Commission may appeal against such order to the National Commission within a period of 30 days. The National Commission may entertain an appeal after 30 days if it is satisfied that there was sufficient cause for not filing it within that period

National Commission

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 consultation with the Chief Justice of India) .
2. 4 other members ( qualifications : As for District Forum /State Commission ).

Jurisdiction of the National Commission

The National Commission shall have jurisdiction -

(a) to entertain

(i) complaints where the value of services and compensation claimed exceeds rupees 20 lakhs ; and

(ii) appeals against the orders of any State Commission.

(b) to entertain revision petition against the State Commission.

Procedure to be followed by the National Commission

A complaint containing the following particulars shall be presented by the complainant in person or by his agent to the National Commission or be sent by registered post, addressed to the National Commission :-

1. the name, description and the address of the complainant;
2. the name, description and address of the opposite party or parties, as the case may be, so far as they can be ascertained ;
3. the facts relating to the complaint and when and where it arose ;
4. documents in support of the allegations contained in the complaint ;
5. the relief which the complainant claims.

The remaining procedure and the procedure for hearing the appeal is similar to that for State Commission.

Appeal against orders of the National Commission

Any person, aggrieved by an order made by the National Commission, may appeal against such order to the Supreme Court within a period of 30 days from the date of the order. The Supreme Court may entertain an appeal after 30 days if it is satisfied that there was sufficient cause for not filing it within that period.

Limitation Period

The District Forum , the State Commission or the National Commission shall not admit a complaint unless it is filed within 2 years from the date on which the cause of action has arisen. In case there are sufficient grounds for not filing the complaint within such period, extension may be granted.

Dismissal of frivolous or vexatious complaints

Where a complaint instituted before the District Forum, the State Commission or the National Commission, as the case may be, is found to be frivolous or vexatious, it shall, for reasons to be recorded in writing, dismiss the complaint and make an order that the complainant shall pay to the opposite party such cost, not exceeding 10,000 rupees, as may be specified in the order.

Penalties

Where a person against whom a complaint is made or the complainant fails or omits to comply with any order made by the District Forum, the State Commission or the National Commission, as the case may be, such person or complainant shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than one month but which may extend to three years, or with fine which shall not be less than 2,000 rupees but which may extend to 10,000 rupees or with both. In exceptional circumstances the penalties may be reduced further.

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