Wednesday, April 17, 2024
India News

Consumer courts to get a digital flavour

India’s consumer protection body is moving the dispute redressal mechanism online at the national and state levels by March end, two officials aware of the matter said.

The move to a digital platform is expected to benefit consumers, activists, non-governmental organizations, members of consumer courts, bar councils and advocates, and pave the way for more efficient and faster resolution of consumer cases.

The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA), which was formed in July 2020 and reports to the consumer affairs ministry, is readying to roll out e-court services in all 35 state consumer dispute redressal commissions (SCDRCs) and 10 benches of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), the people cited above said on condition of anonymity.

Queries sent to the consumer affairs ministry were unanswered till press time.

Currently, the e-court service for redressing consumers’ grievances is operational in only one bench of NCDRC in New Delhi. The formation of e-courts is aimed at expediting the redressal process and reducing the backlog of cases, which is currently at around 400,000 cases.

The initiative towards starting e-court services follows the successful resolution of 182,248 cases in 2022 and 182,750 cases in 2023, according to CCPA. Figures of previous years were not available.

The e-court services at the state and national levels will allow consumers to file and follow complaints without any loss of working day and spending on transport, the first person cited above said.

District-level forums, however, will have to wait for the digital move. “We are trying to start e-court services at district-level consumer forums by the end of this year,” the second official cited above said.

NCDRC deals with cases exceeding 2 crore (in compensation), while SCDRCs handles cases between 50 lakh and 2 crore. District consumer dispute redressal commissions (DCDRC) have jurisdiction over cases that entail up to 50 lakh in compensation.

Manish K. Shubhay, partner, The Precept Law Offices, and a Supreme Court lawyer, welcomed the plan. “The e-courts system ensures 24×7 access to vital legal information, including case status, cause lists and court orders, promoting efficiency and convenience. The transition to an e-courts system would make the justice delivery system in consumer jurisdiction more accessible, cost-effective and transparent.”

“It’s a pathbreaking move by the government, ensuring further decentralization of the complaint filing system for consumers. Convenience and simplicity ensure that every aggrieved consumer can reach the justice system sitting at home,” said Ashim Sanyal, chief executive officer of Consumer VOICE. “However, we need to be cautious and prepared for more numbers overwhelming the system,” Sanyal added.

CCPA also plans to deploy technical service providers at court premises to ensure that those who may not be technologically adept can still avail themselves of the e-court services, promoting inclusivity in the consumer dispute resolution framework. Teaching tutorials are also getting prepared for those who don’t want to file their complaints through advocates.

One thought on “Consumer courts to get a digital flavour

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