Consumer Protection Council, Rourkela
  about us
Monthly Magazine of Consumer Protection Council, Rourkela
VOLUME-XVII             JUL-AUG-SEP 2005             ADVANTAGE - VII,VIII&IX
In this issue:
1. Food for thought from the first citizen of India to citizens of India
2. Queries & Answers through the web
  Are Chit Funds Covered?
 Bad experience with Air Deccan
 How can I seek relief?
 Why doctors should be answerable?
 What can I do when a NBFC fails?
 Problem with Hutch
 Battery replaced during service
 Insurance Claim
 Harassment by taxi driver
 Calculation of Limitation Period
 Poor service by Tata - AIG
 Mediclaim not settled
 Problems with software developer
 Problem with the builder
 Cheated by builder
 Deficient service by Max New York
 Non refunding of dues by MCS Ltd.
 High-handedness of ICICI
 Any standard for car parking space?
 Non-availability of spares for new car
3. Secretary's 22nd Annual Report
4. Please support your cause!
5. Join the Council
6. Subscription Details
7. FAQ
8. Citizens' Charter for Department of Telecom Services & 
Department of Telecom Operation (Highlights)
9. Massive hike in the rates of Postal services
10. FAQs on Electricity
11. When the cause of action continues to exist, the filing of the case is not barred by limitation - NCDRC
12. Recovery of fee can wait - but not the treatment for trying to save the life - NCDRC
13. Dealer and manufacturer are jointly and severally liable for selling a defective good - NCDRC
14. Back-dating of a policy by LIC is not permissible without the consent of the insured - NCDRC
15. Legal Aid for needy consumers
16. Hurrah for the Consumer? - Anil Dharker

Food for thought from the first citizen of India to citizens of India

Friends.... A great visionary's great topic for self introspection.

As desired by the President of India, this paper is for circulation. Thanks President's Office The President of India DR. A. P. J. Abdul Kalaam's Speech in Hyderabad 

"I have three visions for India. In 3000 years of our history, people from all over the world have come and invaded us, captured our lands, conquered our minds. From Alexander on wards. The Greeks, the Turks, the Moguls, the Portuguese, the British, the French, the Dutch, all of them came and looted us, took over what was ours. Yet we have not done this to any other nation. We have not conquered anyone. 

We have not grabbed their land, their culture, their history and tried to enforce our way of life on them. Why? Because we respect the freedom of others. That is why my first vision is that of FREEDOM. I believe that India got its first vision of this in 1857, when we started the war of independence. It is this freedom that we must protect and nurture and build on. If we are not free, no one will respect us. 

My second vision for India is DEVELOPMENT. For fifty years we have been a developing nation. It is time we see ourselves as a developed nation. We are among top 5 nations of the world in terms of GDP. We have 10 percent growth rate in most areas. Our poverty levels are falling. Our achievements are being globally recognized today. Yet we lack the self-confidence to see ourselves as a developed nation, self- reliant and self-assured. Isn't this incorrect?

I have a third vision. India must stand up to the world. Because I believe that, unless India stands up to the world, no one will respect us. Only STRENGTH respects strength. We must be strong not only as a military power but also as an economic power. Both must go hand-in-hand. My good fortune was to have worked with three great minds. Dr. Vikram Sarabhai of the Dept. of space, Professor Satish Dhawan, who succeeded him and Dr. Brahm Prakash, father of nuclear material. I was lucky to have worked with all three of them closely and consider this the great opportunity of my life. 

I see four milestones in my career: Twenty years I spent in ISRO. I was given the opportunity to be the project director for India's first satellite launch vehicle, SLV3. The one that launched Rohini. These years played a very important role in my life of Scientist.

After my ISRO years, I joined DRDO and got a chance to be the part of India's guided missile program. It was my second bliss when Agni met its mission requirements in 1994. The Dept. of Atomic Energy and DRDO had this tremendous partnership in the recent nuclear tests, on May 11 and 13. This was the third bliss. The joy of participating with my team in these nuclear tests and proving to the world that India can make it, that we are no longer a developing nation but one of them. It made me feel very proud as an Indian. The fact that we have now developed for Agni a re-entry structure, for which we have developed this new material. A very light material called carbon-carbon.

One day an orthopedic surgeon from Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences visited my laboratory. He lifted the material and found it so light! that he took me to his hospital and showed me his patients. There were these little girls and boys with heavy metallic calipers weighing over three Kg. each, dragging their feet around. He said to me: Please remove the pain of my patients. In three weeks, we made these Floor reaction Orthosis 300-gram calipers and took them to the orthopedic center. The children didn't believe their eyes. From dragging around a three kg. load on their legs, they could now move around! Their parents had tears in their eyes. That was my fourth bliss! 

Why is the media here so negative? 

Why are we in India so embarrassed to recognize our own strengths, our achievements? We are such a great nation. We have so many amazing success stories but we refuse to acknowledge them. 


We are the first in milk production. 
We are number one in Remote sensing satellites. 
We are the second largest producer of wheat. 
We are the second largest producer of rice. 

Look at Dr. Sudarshan, he has transferred the tribal village into a self-sustaining, self-driving unit. There are millions of such achievements but our media is only obsessed in the bad news and failures and disasters. 

I was in Tel Aviv once and I was reading the Israeli newspaper. It was the day after a lot of attacks and bombardments and deaths had taken place. The Hamas had struck. But the front page of the newspaper had the picture of a Jewish gentleman who in five years had transformed his desert into an orchid and a granary. It was this inspiring picture that everyone woke up to. The gory details of killings, bombardments, deaths, were inside in the newspaper, buried among other news. 

In India we only read about death, sickness, terrorism, crime. Why are we so NEGATIVE? 

Another question: Why are we, as a nation so obsessed with foreign things? 

We want foreign TVs, we want foreign shirts. We want foreign technology. Why this obsession with everything imported. Do we not realize that self-respect comes with self-reliance? 

I was in Hyderabad giving this lecture, when a 14 year old girl asked me for my autograph. I asked her what her goal in life is. She replied: I want to live in a developed India. 

For her, you and I will have to build this developed India. You must proclaim. India is not an under-developed nation; it is a highly developed nation. 
Do you have 10 minutes? Allow me to come back with a vengeance. 
Got 10 minutes for your country? If yes, then read; otherwise, choice is yours. 

YOU say that our government is inefficient. 
YOU say that our laws are too old. 
YOU say that the municipality does not pick up the garbage. 
YOU say that the phones don't work, the railways are a joke, The airline is the worst in the world, mails never reach their destination. 
YOU say that our country has been fed to the dogs and is the absolute pits. 
YOU say, say and say. What do YOU do about it? 

Take a person on his way to Singapore. Give him a name - YOURS. Give him a face - YOURS. 
YOU walk out of the airport and you are at your International best. In Singapore you don't throw cigarette butts on the roads or eat in the stores. 

YOU are as proud of their Underground links as they are. You pay $5 (approx. Rs. 60) to drive through Orchard Road (equivalent of Mahim Causeway or Pedder Road) between 5 PM and 8 PM. YOU come back to the parking lot to punch your parking ticket if you have over stayed in a restaurant or a shopping mall irrespective of your status identity.
In Singapore you don't say anything, DO YOU? 

YOU wouldn't dare to eat in public during Ramadan, in Dubai. 
YOU would not dare to go out without your head covered in Jeddah. 
YOU would not dare to buy an employee of the telephone exchange in London at 10 pounds (Rs. 650) a month to, "see to it that my STD and ISD calls are billed to someone else." 

YOU would not dare to speed beyond 55 mph (88 km/h) in Washington and then tell the traffic cop, "Jaanta hai main kaun hoon (Do you know who I am?). I am so and so's son. Take your two bucks and get lost." 
YOU wouldn't chuck an empty coconut shell anywhere other than the garbage pail on the beaches in Australia and New Zealand. 

Why don't YOU spit Paan on the streets of Tokyo? 
Why don't YOU use examination jockeys or buy fake certificates in Boston??? We are still talking of the same YOU. 

YOU who can respect and conform to a foreign system in other countries but cannot in your own. You who will throw papers and cigarettes on the road the moment you touch Indian ground. If you can be an involved and appreciative citizen in an alien country, why cannot you be the same here in India? Once in an interview, the famous Ex-municipal commissioner of Bombay, Mr. Tinaikar, had a point to make. "Rich people's dogs are walked on the streets to leave their affluent droppings all over the place," he said. "And then the same people turn around to criticize and blame the authorities for inefficiency and dirty pavements. What do they expect the officers to do? Go down with a broom every time their dog feels the pressure in his bowels? 

In America every dog owner has to clean up after his pet has done the job. Same in Japan. Will the Indian citizen do that here?" He's right. 
We go to the polls to choose a government and after that forfeit all responsibility. We sit back wanting to be pampered and expect the government to do everything for us whilst our contribution is totally negative. 

We expect the government to clean up but we are not going to stop chucking garbage all over the place nor are we going to stop to pick a up a stray piece of paper and throw it in the bin. We expect the railways to provide clean bathrooms but we are not going to learn the proper use of bathrooms. 

We want Indian Airlines and Air India to provide the best of food and toiletries but we are not going to stop pilfering at the least opportunity. This applies even to the staff who is known not to pass on the service to the public. When it comes to burning social issues like those related to women, dowry, girl child! and others, we make loud drawing room protestations and continue to do the reverse at home. Our excuse? "It's the whole system which has to change, how will it matter if 

I alone forego my sons' rights to a dowry." So who's going to change the system? 

What does a system consist of? Very conveniently for us it consists of our neighbours, other households, other cities, other communities and the government. But definitely not me and YOU. When it comes to us actually making a positive contribution to the system we lock ourselves along with our families into a safe cocoon and look into the distance at countries far away and wait for a Mr. Clean to come along & work miracles for us with a majestic sweep of his hand or we leave the country and run away.

Like lazy cowards hounded by our fears we run to America to bask in their glory and praise their system. When New York becomes insecure we run to England. When England experiences unemployment, we take the next flight out to the Gulf. When the Gulf is war struck, we demand to be rescued and brought home by the Indian government. Everybody is out to abuse and rape the country. Nobody thinks of feeding the system. Our conscience is mortgaged to money. 

Dear Indians, The article is highly thought inductive, calls for a great deal of introspection and pricks one's conscience too.... I am echoing J. F. Kennedy's words to his fellow Americans to relate to Indians..... 


Lets do what India needs from us. 

Forward this mail to each Indian for a change instead of sending Jokes or junk mails. 

Thank you, 
Dr. Abdul Kalaam 

Queries & Answers through the web

( is the web site of Consumer Protection Council, Rourkela. One of the major attractions of the web site is that a visitor can ask queries on issues relating to consumer protection. Answers to these queries are made free of cost, by the Secretary of the Council, Sri B.Vaidyanathan.)

Are Chit Funds Covered?

Q.:Are investments in private chit funds or bonds floated by private companies,covered under the Consumer Protection Act ? If so, please furnish a few citations. 
                                                     V.T.Venkataram, Chennai-41. 
Ans.:Chit Funds and NBFCs do come under the purview of the CP Act. Several citations of the National Commission are available in CPJ and CPR. You may refer to these. Anyhow one such case is M/s Dwarkadish Chits Pvt. Ltd. and another vs. Sanju Ram Aggarwal, NCDRC, 1986-1996 CONSUMER 2469 (NS).

Bad experience with Air Deccan

Q.:Sir, I had booked a return ticket from Hyderabad to Kolkatta on Air Deccan. However, just prior to the day I was to travel, Air Deccan people called stating that my flight was cancelled and gave me no reasons. They also claimed that I could either opt for a refund or take their next flight available.Because taking a ticket on a different airline would prove expensive, I rescheduled my departure to the next day. I had about 4 days work in Kolkatta. Due to delay in my departure date by 1 day, I had no option but to extend my return date by a day. However, Air Deccan forced me to pay Rs. 1100 (Rs. 200 as postponement charges and Rs. 900 as extra ticket charges) to make this change.This case of flight cancellation does not seem to be beyond the control of the airline as one of my friends also had the same experience some days before. Am I entitled to compensation? Should I approch the Consumer Forum to seek Redressal? 
                                                                   Vijay Sen, Hyderabad-32. 

Ans.:From the details stated by you, it appears that you will be able to get appropriate relief if you approach the consumer court. As you have rightly pointed out the airlines cannot cancel a flight just like that. If the cancellations are taking place regularly that means there is something radically wrong in their operations and they have to compensate the passenger for that; extending the return date by the duration of the delay is the least that they should have done.

How can I seek relief?

Q.:I am a British consumer and I had bought some goods from an Indian company. The goods did not arrive within the said time frame. Further, of the four items ordered, two did not match the description of what I had ordered, and the fourth has never been sent. How can I make the company take back its goods and give me a refund? They are not answering my e-mails now. Is there any legal act that I can quote? 
                                                               David Mackay, Farnham. UK

Ans.:Please confirm whether the items were purchased for personal/family use and not for commercial purpose (for resale). Also confirm that the transaction/dispute is not more than 2 years old. If you are satisfying both these conditions and you have proper documentary evidence for the amount paid and the the items supplied, then you can seek relief under the Consumer Protection Act, in a District Forum at Kanpur (whose pecuniary jurisdiction is limited to Rs. 20 lakhs). The complete text of the Act is available at

Why doctors should be answerable?

Q.:I am a doctor. I would like to know why a profession like medicine should be included in CPA .
                                    Dr.Shreemanta Kumar Dash, Eluru. AP

Ans.:There is no reason why any profession should be left out of the jurisdiction of the CP Act, as long as the said profession renders a "service" to consumers for a "consideration", excepting those which are "contract of service" in nature (house-maid, etc.). CP Act was conceived and legislated to protect the consumers from "defective" goods and "deficient" services. This became necessary as the existing laws failed to provide relief to the consumers as the procedures are elaborate in the civil courts. As long as a professional, whether he is a lawyer or a doctor or a builder renders the service for which he is hired in ethical manner, with reasonable level of competence and sincerity, which is expected of him, there is nothing to bother. The Act and the Forums formed there under intervene only when the concerned individual renders blatantly "deficient" service, to the detriment of the availing consumer.

What can I do when a NBFC fails?

Q.:My father invested a sizable amount in a non-banking financial company some years ago but in spite of making repeated requests, he has not received the money back.The financial institution has also not bothered to reply to the letter written by him.What should he do now so as to recover his savings? 
                                              Rupesh Nidhi, Ghaziabad-10. UP

Ans.:In general, for problems of the nature described by you, either you can write to the concerned bench of the CLB (Company Law Board) or approach the Consumer Forum having jurisdiction over the matter. It is found that the CLB is quite ineffective and generally does not come to the rescue of the investing public.  Hence the second option would be more suitable, provided the Company (NBFC) has not gone bankrupt.

Problem with Hutch

Q.:I am a post-paid user of Hutch. When I opted for Hutch GPRS, I was not told of thier GPRS usage charges, which is more than Rs. 50 per MB. If I had been informed, I wouldn't have opted for it. Please note that BSNL's Cellone service still charges a flat 349/- per month (no hourly charge and no per KB charge) in Bangalore. What should I do? Please help.
                                               B.V.S.Ravi Kumar, Bangalore-37.

Ans.:You can approach the District Forum and seek relief, provided you have the evidences that can corroborate your grievance that `Hutch' has rendered deficient service. Fixing of price (tariff) is beyond the jurisdiction of the consumer courts and hence a comparison with BSNL is not likely to help you. What is needed is, as per their scheme what `Hutch' was supposed to perform and at what cost? If there is any deviation from that commitment or they have charged in excess of what they were supposed to do, then it is `deficient' service, for which the Forum can provide you relief. Based on these, decide whether it is appropriate to approach the Forum.

Battery replaced during service

Q.: After purchasing the Bajaj Wind bike I gave it for servicing, where the battery was changed with a old one. After lot of efforts I got my original back. Now after the second service I feel again I have been cheated. Kindly guide me as to what steps I can take in this regard.
                                                 Joydip Dhar, Ghaziabad-10. UP

Ans.: Whenever you receive your vehicle after servicing, you will have to ensure that everything is in order. I am sure that at the time of taking possession of your vehicle, after servicing, you would have signed the job card stating that all the jobs had been done to your satisfaction. That being so, raising a dispute now for replacement of battery, is not likely to benefit you.

Insurance Claim

Q.: I did not get the insurance claim for my mobile handset which was pickpocketed. National Insurance Company sent me a regret letter saying that they cannot pay and the local police station did not register an FIR. Can you help me?
                                                            Raj Kothari, Kolkata-53.

Ans.: If the Mobile handset is insured, as per the requirement of the insuring companies for the settlement of the claim, a FIR must be lodged with the concerned Police Station and a copy with the Diary No. has to be submitted to the Insurance Co. Since you could not produce the FIR, the Insurance Co. has objected to your claim.

Harassment by taxi driver

Q.: At the Mumbai Airport I could not locate the prepaid taxi booth and hence approached a Taxi Driver. Instead of guiding me to the prepaid taxi booth, he volunteered to take me to my destination, Kurla. By mistake I boarded his taxi and he started behaving in a rude manner. After which I had a terrible experience. The driver said that there is no prepaid taxi counter and that I should pay Rs.550/- and started threatening. After a lot of argument I finally had to pay the fare demanded by him. I really felt cheated. I feel some strong action should be taken against this. Can you suggest? 
                                                                   M.Kabir, Mumbai-70.

Ans.: Instances of the nature narrated by you are not very rare. Hence after noting down the Taxi No., you should have immediately complained to the police. I am sure that they would have immediately intervened. Even now, though it is late, for the benefit of others write a letter to the Mumbai Police (Traffic).

Calculation of Limitation Period

Q.:A contract was signed with the builder where it clearly stated that he would arrange for approval of the plan and hand over the built house within 8 months from March 2003. I paid the entire amount and about Rs.3500 is due. Still now he has not completed even 30% of the work. I just came to know that the limitation period is 2 years and I can not file any complaint against the builder, in the consumer court. Please enlighten whether the limitation starts from the date of signing the contract or from the date on which it is supposed to be ended? 
                                      T.E.Srinivasan, Thennembet, NA Dt. TN

Ans.: For the consideration of period of limitation, the date of arising of dispute should be taken as the date of origin. In your case, the builder was supposed to complete the construction and deliver possession in November 2003, which he had not complied with. In case there was subsequent letter correspondence and as per mutual agreement if some other date had been committed, then date will have to be considered for calculation of limitation. In any case it can not be before November 2003.

Poor service by Tata - AIG

Q.: I renewed the Auto Secure Policy (of Tata AIG General Insurance Company) in December 2004, but I am yet to receive the renewed policy. I reminded the company over 30 times and always they reply that the policy would be despatched policy soon. Can you advice how to deal with this matter 
                                                       Amitabh Kumar, Noida-3. UP

Ans.: How was the renewal premium remitted? Did you obtain a receipt for the money paid? If you have a receipt or if the premium had been remitted through a cheque, you have a ground to approach the consumer court for deficient service. Before doing so, write a letter and retain the p.o.d. and allow them 10 days to act (People have been under the impression that Public Sector undertakings are only inefficient; but we find the same on the other side as well. Mera Bharat Mahan!)

Mediclaim not settled

Q.: My mother was covered under a mediclaim policy from 1997 and in 2004 she was admitted in a hospital at Chennai and diagnosed for heart block and a pacemaker was installed. All the documents demanded by the insurance company have been submitted six months back, but the claim is not being settled. I feel harassed as the claim is worth Rs.1,70,000/- and seek your advice to settle the matter.
                                         Samir Kumar Roy, Secunderabad-94.

Ans.: It is unfortunate that the Insurance Companies in general, should be so insensitive to the predicament of the insured. As yet another effort to resolve this issue, write to the higher officials of the Insurance Company, if not done already. If still they do not come forward to liquidate the claim in a reasonable manner, you can approach the consumer court for suitable relief (claim + compensation + cost).

Problems with software developer

Q.:I have lost 100s of prospective customers due to the bad programming by the website developers. After lot of complaints they did resolve some of the issues, but several still remain. They have several business names, I wonder why. They are the part of STPI, a society set up by Ministry of IT, Govt. of India.
                             Dr.Steven J. Cronson, Chanhassen, MN. USA

Ans.: Commercial transactions like the one which you have entered into do not come under the purview of the consumer courts, which have the potential for summary trial and adjudication. Since the erring firm has set up its office in a STPI, you can solicit the Ministry of Information Technology, Govt. of India, to use their good offices to resolve the matter. You can lodge a complaint at http.//

Problem with the builder

Q.: I purchased a flat from Abode Constructions by taking a loan of Rs.17.5 lakhs from ICICI Bank. During the course of construction, as per the advice of my friends I decided to get the wood work done on my own and asked the builder to return the amount (Rs. 3 lakhs) earmarked for that purpose. After lot of follow-up the cheques that were given bounced. The flat has also not been constructed as per specifications and there are roof seepages as well. All the request for repair is falling on deaf ears and as such I am compelled to stay on rent for the past 6 months. How can I get relief?
                                            Pushkar Mishra, Secunderabad-94.

Ans.: The builder appears to be at fault on 3 counts, namely, (1) violation of specifications; (2) defective construction; and (3) issuing of cheques without requisite balance (punishable under negotiable Instruments Act). With proper evidence you can approach the consumer court for refund of excess money with interest + compensation +cost.

Cheated by builder

Q.:While looking to buy a land I came across a village project. As per the brochure if I paid the entire amount and register immediately then a discount of 40% is allowed on the entire amount. After paying the money, the builder informed that the plot is not ready for registration. Then I demanded refund of entire amount paid for the land, which they are refusing to return. Can I approach the consumer court?
                                                           Chris Sufi, Bangalore-47.

Ans.: What the builder has done amounts to 'unfair trade practice' as defined under sec.-2(1)(r) of the CP Act (misrepresentation of facts). If you have proper evidence (brochure, receipts, etc.), you are bound to get suitable relief from the consumer court.

Deficient service by Max New York 

Q.:After receipt premium reminder letter from Max New York Life insurance I opted for direct debit (bank) option for premium payment but after few days they said auto debit option is not possible in the current year and I will have to pay by cash/cheque. Hence I paid through cheque. After that I found that the insurance company has collected the premium through auto debit as well. They had also not given the rebate promised in their web-site. They do not reply properly. Please advice.
                                                             Aswin Garg, Mumbai-12.

Ans.: The actions/inaction of the said Insurance Company as narrated by you, amounts to 'deficiency in service' and you can seek relief in a consumer court. The misleading advertisement is an "unfair trade practice" as defined under sec. 2(1)(r) of the CP Act and the Forum has powers to intervene.

Non refunding of dues by MCS Ltd.

Q.: I applied in IPO of Punjab National Bank (PNB) public issue for 50 number of shares @ Rs.390/- per share, amounting Rs.19,500/- but was allotted 15 shares amounting Rs.5,850/-. Hence the balance amount of Rs.13,650/- is ought to be refunded. I have applied for the refund of the amount since last 6 months but I have not received from Registrar Transfer Agent (RTA)- M/s MCS Ltd unit PNB-FPO. Can I approach consumer court? Do I need an Advocate? Advice pl.
                                              M.F.Bukhari, Thane-6. Maharashtra

Ans.: Inordinate delay in refunding the amount due to you by MCS Ltd. amounts to "deficiency in service" (you must have sent the payment to M/s MCS?). You can approach the District Forum for the redressal of your grievance. You need not hire an advocate. Sample complaint petition format is available at You can claim refund of the amount due + interest + compensation + cost. File the complaint in the District forum having jurisdiction over M/s MCS Ltd.

High-handedness of ICICI

Q.:On completion of 2 year of use of ICICI credit card they charged the annual fee for the coming year, but did not sed the new Card. I asked them to waive off the annual fee and make a full and final clearance as on date. No action was taken and they sat on the case. Now after a year they are threatening me with a civil suit. I am still ready to pay the entire amount as my card expired in Jan.-Feb. and they have not issue any card despite charging me the annual fee for the year which I feel is deficiency in service. I want a waiver of the annual fee and to collect the outstanding which they never replied. Please advice..
                                                            Amit Gupta, Noida-1. UP

Ans.: Collecting the Annual Fees and not issuing the Credit Card amounts to deficient Service. ICICI should have at least informed you the reasons for not issuing the Card and if at all there was outstanding against your account that should have been clearly informed. From your narration it appears that ICICI had acted in an high-handed fashion with its customer. You can approach the consumer court and seek relief. But if there are any "dues" payable from your side, clear them at the earliest so that the District Forum can intervene in your favour.

Any standard for car parking space?

Q.:After taking the loan from ICICI I purchased a flat. Now the builder asked me take possession and pay the balance. I visited the site and found the car parking space is not sufficient and asked for increasing of parking space which they have not replied. (1) Is there any law under which a builder should provide specific size of parking space? (2) Can I move to the Consumer Court before taking possession of the flat? If yes, then can the builder refuse to hand-over until the case is disposed off? (3) If I take possession, register my flat & covered car parking space in my name and then can I approach the consumer court? The promoter is asking me to take possession & get it registered within 15 days. (4) Do I have to inform ICICI bank before I go to the Consumer Court? Please advice.
                                                      Bijay Karmakar, Kolkata-103.

Ans.: (1) I am not aware of any law which stipulates specific size (length x breadth x height) for car shed. But such specification could be available under Indian Standards (IS). But that will be applicable only when the building as per agreement, is supposed to have been constructed as per IS. (2) It will be advisable to take possession of the flat and then move the consumer court, if required. (3) Approaching the consumer court could adversely delay the matter to your detriment. Since the size of the parking slot will not change, it will not materially affect your approaching the consumer court, if there is a need. (4) Informing ICICI about approaching the consumer court is not required.

Non-availability of spares for new car

Q.: My 2 months old car (Scorpio) got submerged and the vehicle is at service centre. Initial estimate given by service centre was INR 90000 whereas Insurance Co. approved only INR 20000. The insurance surveyor rightly removed parts like seats whereas service centre wanted to replace them and since then I am running from pillar to post for the repair of car, as the service centre claims that the parts are not available. Kindly guide me on what I can do and as a consumer what are my rights?
                                                                     C.Ajay, Mumbai-101.

Ans.: You can write to the manufacturer and their Customer Service Department about your predicament, if not done already. They can intervene to expedite the matter. Also try to find out whether the spares which are not supposed to be available with the dealer are available in the market (spare part dealers, etc.). In case they are available, you have the option of procuring them and supplying them to the service centre. Subsequently, if it will be possible for you to prove that the Service Centre was indeed negligent and had rendered you 'deficient' service, you can contemplate approaching the consumer court for realising compensation with cost.

Secretary's 22nd Annual Report

Dear friends, 

         The year 2007 was indeed great for the Council. The Council could achieve big victories in the National Commission and the Supreme Court. The tenacity and our ability to sustain prolonged campaigns, I believe, paid rich dividends. It is with this conviction the organisation should be nourished and strengthened by each one of us, so that we play our role in achieving the ultimate goals. 

         The 21st Anniversary of the Council was celebrated along with the "World Consumer Rights Day" and the 21st Annual General Meeting, in March 2007.  Dr. Sri Ram Khanna, Managing Trustee, VOICE, New Delhi, graced the occasion as the Chief Guest. 

         After more than 25 sittings, the Hon'ble National Commission (NCDRC), New Delhi delivered its judgement in the short-filling of LPG refills case, pursued by your Council against IOC Ltd., in August 2007. No doubt the order fell very much short of our expectations. As per the order, the LPG bottling plants should be modernised within a span of 4 years and till such time the Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) should provide weighing scales to the delivery boys, who will weigh the refills before delivering them to the consumers. The Commission also directed the OMCs to advertise this information widely in the media. M/s IOC was directed to pay Rs. 50,000/- to our Council. Though the Commission was in possession of independent Reports about the existing semi-automated Plants submitted by the IIT, Kharagpur Professors as well as the Committee set up by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Government of India, which unequivocally concluded that the existing bottling plants with manual tare weight neutralising system are prone to error and are not capable of delivering the correct weight of LPG in the refills, in total agreement with the submissions made by the Council,
in the Original Petition filed in 2001, did not deem it fit to grant any relief to the Council, on this count. Interestingly, the Hon'ble Commission in one of its interim orders, considering the loss continued to be suffered by the consumers, directed M/s IOC, in October 2005 to provide weighing scales to the delivery boys who would weigh the refills before delivering them to the consumers at their doorstep. The Consumer Protection Act, which was amended in March 2003, makes it mandatory for the Forums to award a minimum compensation of 5% of the loss suffered by the consumers, when the number of consumers affected are very large and when it is difficult to identify the individuals affected. These provisions inserted in 2003, aimed at making the Consumer Courts encourage Public Interest Cases and also to award sizeable compensation for those who take up such issues as the individual loss in such cases are too low and the processes are sophisticated which would discourage individuals from approaching them. The Council had pleaded for this relief in 2004, when it filed its consolidated submissions, as was directed by the NCDRC. No doubt, the compensation so calculated on the estimated loss of Rs. 750 crores in a year may appear to be high by Indian standards, but that is the only way the resource starved consumer organisations can be motivated to fight for the common good and discourage the industry from taking the consumers for granted. The mandate of law should not be circumvented. Further, this is a Test Case and has the potential to make a huge impact in the interpretation of the CP Act for safeguarding consumer
interests, strengthening of consumer organisations & the consumer movement, functioning of the consumer courts and the general attitude of the industry and the general public. Hence, the Council had filed a Review Petition before the Hon'ble National Commission under sec. 22(2) of the Consumer Protection Act. This has been admitted and is being heard. The next dated of hearing has been fixed for 23rd May 2008. 

         In the RDA (Rourkela Development Authority) case, as was informed to you in the last AGM, because of misrepresentation of facts, the Supreme Court of India had served notice on us, based on the appeal filed by the RDA against the judgement of NCDRC, in 2006. After we filed the counter, the Supreme
Court dismissed their appeal in April 2007. After resorting to all delaying tactics, the RDA should have at least seen reasons in the dismissal of their appeal by the Supreme Court and fulfilled their obligations and handed over possession of the houses to the consumers. Unfortunately that did not happen and the Council has filed an Execution Petition in the State Commission, Orissa, from where the case originated. This is another case, which should again serve as a sample to forcefully demonstrate how the law could be dodged when a powerful state machinery is engaged against general public, in spite of a tireless, committed and knowledgeable voluntary organisation taking up the matter. It is hoped that the Execution Petition would end the endless wait of the affected individuals. 

         Your Secretary has been one of the consumer activists, who has been associated with Electricity Regulatory Commission, of Orissa, since the beginning.  The Planning Commission which was interested in finding ways and means of strengthening the Regulatory Process, not only in the Electricity Sector, but also in Telecom, Insurance, Banking and other sectors, convened a meeting in June 07, under the Chairmanship of Sri Montek Singh Ahluwalia.  A handful of consumer activists from across the country participated in the discussions. Your Secretary also made a brief presentation. 

         We in the Council have always been making the best use of the resources made available to us. The Council's library and the Internet access, which came
as a part of the Consumer Information Centre project, are being utilised to our potential. In our endeavour to reach out to the consumers, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and beyond, we had put up our web site, in 2000. I am happy to note that the visitors to the site are increasing by the day in spite of our inability to publicise it in a big way. During the year 2007, more than 300 queries on wide ranging problems,
received through the web site, were answered free of cost. This is in addition to the Counseling provided at our offices at Sector-2 and Sector-7. It will be
appropriate to note here that the Internet presence has given the Council much larger visibility and recognition. 

         The Council believes that only an aware consumer can safeguard his interests. To educate the consumers and to make them aware about their rights and responsibilities, it has been publishing the English monthly, Advantage Consumer. This publication was brought out as per schedule in spite of severe
financial constraints. 

         In recognition of the valuable role played by the Council in safeguarding the consumer interests, it continues to be represented in various consultative bodies of the State and the Centre. 

         One of the unique activities of the Council has been putting up of hoardings at vantage points to create awareness among the consumers. This activity was sustained during 2007. 

         The Council has been taking up individual complaints ever since it started functioning, for two reasons. One is to give succor to the needy consumer who
has suffered due to deficient goods or services and secondly to demonstrate to them that when complaints are handled systematically, there are even now
avenues for getting those redressed. The Council has been reasonably successful in sorting out good majority of the complaints through correspondence alone. The complaints received by the Council have been steadily decreasing, especially in the last 7 years or so. The sharp decline in the number of complaints received is due to increasing awareness among the consumers at Rourkela and the salutary effect of the presence of the Council. 

         Financial constraints continued to haunt the Council during the year. In my opinion, we re making the best use of the limited resources that are available to the Council, but there is a limit to which we can stretch them. Ever increasing expectation of the people who are around us cannot be met unless we try to augment the resources in a substantial way. I solicit each and every one of you to participate in our efforts for generating financial resources for strengthening the cause of the consumers. 

         The Council was supported in its crusade for protecting the consumer interests by the Department of Consumer Affairs, Government of India, SAIL,
Rourkela Steel Plant, Food Supplies & Consumer Welfare Department, Government of Orissa, the Press, Income Tax authorities and others. We are
quite thankful to them for their support and encouragement. I am quite thankful to the President, the Executive Committee and office staff of the Council who extended all their valuable cooperation and support on all occasions. Of course, I will be failing in my duty if I fail to mention the support extended by the Council's Auditors over the years, especially S/Sri Amulya Roy, CA and Sanjaya Kumar Sahoo, CA of M/s Patro & Co., who have extended all professional help without any pecuniary compensation. Finally, I convey my sincere thanks to all the members of the Council, who have silently supported all the activities of the organisation. 

         Dear friends, it was a great learning experience for me to have been associated with such a voluntary organisation for so long. Because of the Council and the duties which I had to perform, whether it is representing the Council in various consumer courts or preparing a plaint for the Supreme Court or
even answering the queries asked by varied people from across the country, it must definitely be said that they were all a great learning experience for me and highly enriched my repertoire. The experience which I have gained, I am sure, will come in handy in future as well. I am indeed thankful to each and everyone of you, particularly the Executive Committee Members, who have extended all cooperation and have given a lot of love and affection all along, which gave me the strength to carry out all the activities as Secretary of your Council. 

         Since I have decided to move out from this place, at least for the time being, I will not be able to continue to serve the Council, as its Secretary, in the
coming years. I am confident that the incoming Secretary will get the same cooperation from you so that he can sustain all the activities befitting a great organisation. 

         Though I will be physically away, I will continue to be associated with some of the key activities of the Council. As suggested by the Executive Committee and some of you, I have decided to extend my services to take care of some of the key activities of the Council, which have given it a special identity, like web site maintenance, consumer court cases and answering of web queries. I wish and hope that in the future each and every one of you will extend all cooperation and support to the Council so that it will continue to make a mark, not only at Rourkela but at the national level. 

                                         Thank you all, 



Please support your cause!

           Consumer Protection Council, Rourkela is a non-political, non-profit, registered voluntary organisation, espousing the cause of the consumers. To a great extent, for its sustenance it depends on the goodwill of its individual donors like you. We solicit your support for sustaining the multifarious activities of the Council. Donations to the Council are eligible for tax exemption under Sec. 80-G of the Income Tax Act. Donations may be contributed through cash or crossed cheque/DD, drawn in favour of "Consumer Protection Council, Rourkela".                                                                     - Secretary

Join the Council

            Council's Membership is open to all Indian citizens. For membership Form, Click here


 Life Membership      - Rs. 1200.00
Annual Membership  - Rs.   200.00
Entrance fee            - Rs.   300.00
 Renewal fee             - Rs.   100.00 

              If you feel the Council should be strengthened in the larger interests help us to enrol your friends and relatives as Members of the Council.

- Secretary


(For mailing within India only)

Price Per Copy        : Rs. 5/-
Annual Subscription : Rs. 50/-
Remittances may be made through M.O. or Demand Draft, drawn in favour of "Consumer Protection Council, Rourkela"



Q: Can commercial establishments seek redress before the consumer courts?

A: Yes. They can approach the consumer courts for redressal of grievances pertaining to goods purchased or services availed as long as such goods/services are not for commercial use.

For more FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions), which have been answered, please visit


Citizens' Charter for Department of Telecom Services & 
Department of Telecom Operation (Highlights)


  • To further assure the resolve of the Department's endeavour to provide better service, this Citizens' Charter is a small, but important step. In the present days of consumer awareness, both the potential as well as the existing subscriber should know what his rights are and he should also know what are the commitments of the Department.
  • The Citizens' Charter encompasses all the services offered by the Department, including Inet (DTS's Packet Switched Network), RABMN (Remote Area Business Message Network), HV Net (High Speed VSAT Network), Internet, VSAT Network, IN (Intelligent Network) services, videotex services, in addition to the telephone service.

Quality of Service

  • The Department shall ensure that a subscriber, whose telephone remained out of order for more than 7 days, after duly lodging a complaint, shall be given a rent rebate as per norms.
  • The Department shall put up a board while trenching, indicating the organization and the designation (along with the telephone number) of the officer responsible for satisfactory closure of trenches.
  • Every subscriber will be supplied a Telephone Directory free of cost, at the time of providing the telephone connection, which can be exchanged, free of cost when a new Directory is issued, after surrendering the old Directory.

Assistance to the Subscriber

           The Department shall endeavour to keep the public telephones in proper working conditions. The Department shall carry out periodical surprise checks of STD/ISD/PCO to see that the franchisee charges to the customers as per guidelines issued by the Department.

Relations with the subscriber by the Department's employees

        All transactions with the subscriber shall be in an atmosphere of cordiality and courtesy. The Department assures to deal firmly with discourteous or rude behaviour of the staff towards the subscriber.


  • The Department shall ensure that Bill to the subscribers shall be issued within the stipulated time;
  • The prevailing tariff shall be made available on the reverse of the Telephone Bill.

Redressal of Complaints

  • The Department shall ensure that every written complaint is acknowledged within fifteen days of receipt of complaint;
  • The Department shall ensure that all personnel dealing with the public shall wear badges indicating their name and designation.


  • The obligation of the Department covers telegraph service also, with declared limit of the hours of delivery;
  • For non-delivery of Telegrams or delayed delivery, the Department assures to take proper redressal action and refund shall be given within 30 days of the claim.

Customer Service Centers

           The facilitate friendly interaction with the customers, the Department is committed to open a large number of Customer Service Centers. Where computerization has been fully incorporated, the Department shall open "Single Window Customer Service Centres", so that the customer will be able to have all information/service from a single counter.

Norms set by the Department for Telephone Connection

The Department shall endeavour to:

  • Set right faulty telephones within 48 hours;
  • Carry out request for shifting of telephone within the same exchange area, in 7 days;
  • Carry out request for inter-exchange telephone shifting (in the same city) within 15 days;
  • Carry out request for inter-state telephone shifting within one month;
  • Provide telephone connection within 15 days of issuing of OB (Order Booking);
  • Disputes regarding bills shall be settled within a period of thirty days;
  • Provide telephone connection, in technically feasible areas, within seven days where there is no waiting list;
  • The customer can approach to 'Customer Service Centre' if the above norms are not met out.

           The Department shall make every effort towards the implementation of Citizens' Charter. It shall also continuously update the Charter towards improvement of the same, taking into account the feedback received from its subscribers from time to time. All the services and commitments will be honoured without the citizen having to pay any bribe.

Massive hike in the rates of Postal services

        The Government decided on a massive increase in the rates of popularly used postal services with effect from 1st June 2002. Money orders and telegrams appear to have been the only services to have escaped the hike. The details of the revised postal rates are given below:
Old Rate
New Rate
Post card
Printed Post Card
Competition Post Card
Letter Card
Letters (upto 20 g)
Letters (for every additional 20 g)
Sample Packets (upto 50 g)
Sample Packets (additional 50 g)
Parcels (upto 500 g)
Parcels (every additional 500 g)
Registration fee
Under Certificate of Posting (3 items)

FAQs on Electricity

         Answers to 50 Frequently Asked Questions on Electricity Reforms, Tariff, Metering, Standards of Service, Disconncection, etc. pertaining to Orissa have been made available at .

Utilise the information and be an informed consumer.

When the cause of action continues to exist, the filing of the case is not barred by limitation

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi

Revision Petition No. 2782 & 2783 of 2004
(From the order dated 4.10.04 in Appeal. No. 1540/2004 of the State Commission, Bangalore)

Juliet V.Quadros                             ---- Petitioner 
Mrs. Malti Kumar & another             ---- Respondent

Before:- Hon'ble Mr. Justice S.N.Kapoor, Presiding Member, Mr. B.K.Taimni, Member.

Dated:7th December, 2004



     Petitioner was the opposite party before the District Forum where the Respondents had filed compaint alleging deficiency in service. 

     Brief facts of the case are that the Respondents, seperately, through an agreement with the petitioner decided to purchase the land measuring 6000 sq. ft. in each case. In the case of RP No. 2782/2004, the Respondent/complainant had paid Rs. 1,21,000/- against the total price of Rs. 1,92,000/- and in the case of RP No. 2783/2004, the complainant had paid Rs. 1,85,000 against the total price of the plot at Rs. 1,92,000/-. When the posession of these plots were not delivered, two seperate complaints came to be filed before the District Forum, who allowed the complaints and directed the petitioner to refund the money along with interest at 12% p.a. and a cost of Rs. 5,000/- in each case. Aggrieved by the order, an appeal was filed by the petitioner before the State Commission, who after hearing the parties dismissed the appeal, hence these revision petitions before us.

     The Respondent remained absent despite notice, hence proceeded exparte.

     We heard the Ld. Counsel for the petitioner and perused the material on record. Since the facts of the case are the same and point of law involved in both cases is same, we go on to pass a single order in these two revision petitions.

     The agreement is not disputed. The receipt of money in both the revision petitions is not in dispute. Mainly there are two grounds taken by the petitioner challenging the order passed by the District Forum, one is with regard to the 'Limitation' and the other is with regard to clauses 7, 8 & 9 of the agreement. 

     Dealing with the first point of Limitation first, this point has been very comprehensively dealt with in the order passed by the District Forum. It is not in dispute that till date neither possession has been given nor the money has been refunded as demanded by the complainants from the petitioner, hence as rightly held by the District Forum, the cause of action continues and we are in full agreement with this. Since this was a continuous cause of action in the above facts and circumstances, it cannot be said to be barred by limitation. 

     Coming to the second point, clause No. 7 & 8 of the agreement is reproduced below:-

"7- The vendor and the Purchaser shall respectively obtain all such statutory clearances, permissions and sanctions as applicable to complete the sale transaction.

8- In the event of breach of this agreeement by the vendor or of his inability to perform his obligations under this agreement, the Purchaser shall be entitled to a refund of the amounts paid as a price, till date of such breach with interest paid on the price, till date of such breach, with interest thereon at the prevailing bank rate of interest. Impossibility of performance on account of an Act of God or statutory impediments shall not be construed as a breach on the part of the Vendor. In the event of a breach of this agreement by the Purchaser, the amount of money paid by the Purchaser as the price till such date shall stand forfeited and the contract shall stand terminated. A continuous default in payment of the instalments prescribed, for three consecutive months, shall be construed as a breach."

     After going through the material on record we find that the agreement is signed on 15.4.96. Before that date, the Bangalore Metropolitan Region Development Authority (BMRDA) had already issued a notification in March 1996 reference of which is available at page 27 of the paper book. This notification laid the terms for development of certain areas and the petitioner was clearly warned that they are developing these areas (Cantbury Castle) which is violative of this notification. The important point in this Notification is dated 15.3.96. The petitioner in these circumstances being a developer should have been familiar with the law and regulation on the subject. The deduction will be that despite knowledge of this Notification and now wishing to take shelter under clause 8 of the agreement, will not help him as the terms of notification and the associated restrictions should have been within his knowledge. In any case, as we see by an unsigned document filed before us, what has happened is that as a result of notification instead of 85% of the land being available, the availability now is 50% of the land as the rest is earmarked for common amenities. This cannot be said to mean an act of God or Statutory impediment. Any statutory impediment in the facts and circumstances narrated above, should have been within the knowledge of the petitioner. This is not a subsequent development for which he can plead ignorance. The notification preceded the signing of the agreement. In our view, Clause 8 of the agreement does not help the petitioner at all.

     Last ditch plea appears to be of the application of clause 9 of the agreement, that is, reference of the dispute to an arbitrator, in case any dispute between the parties arises. This point has been very ably dealt with by the District Forum in its order and endorsed by the State Commission. We are in full agreement with that. Section 3 of the Consumer Protection Act provided additional remedy and relief in view of which the clause 9 loses its significance. A weak plea has also been taken that the complainanta were not paying instalments in time, hence they were at fault so that the possession could not be delivered. This contradicts their own conduct. As late as 1998, the petitioner offered an alternative plot away from the original plot, which was not acceptable. No person keeps on paying the money when they see no development, no action on the part of the developer, in this case, the petitioner. Money does not grow on trees for the complainants, for which they will keep giving the money to the petitioner, in this case, even when they see no development on the ground. We see no merit in this plea as well.

     In view of above discussion, we see no merit in the revision petitions filed before us and what has been directed is to refund the deposited amount with interest at 12% p.a. which has been held to be just and equitable by the Hon'ble Superem Court in series of judgements.

     In view of above, we see no infirmity in the order passed by the District Forum and affirmed by the State Commission. These revision petitions are devoid of merit, hence are dismissed.


Recovery of fee can wait - but not the treatment for trying to save the life

(Complete text of the judgment is available at )

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi

Original Petition No. 90 of 2002

Pravat Kumar Mukherjee                      ---- Complainant 
Ruby General Hospital & Ors.              ---- Opposite Parties

Before:- Hon'ble Mr. Justice M.B.Shah, President, Dr. P.D.Shenoy, Member.

Dated:25th April, 2005



       Can Doctors insist and wait for money (fees) when death is knocking the doors of the patient? Obvious answer is recovery of fee can wait-but not the deathnor the treatment for trying to save the life.

      The case involves unfortunate death of a young boy, Shri Sumanta Mukherjee, a student of second year B.Tech., Electrical Engineering, at Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Engineering College, on 14.1.2001 who was injured in an accident at about 8.00 a.m. in which a bus of the Calcutta Tramway Corporation dashed with the motor cycle driven by the deceased. The deceased was brought to the Ruby General Hospital, Kolkata, which was close to the place of accident. 

     The sole question that arises for our consideration is whether the doctors in the hospital were deficient in discharge of their duties in not continuing with the treatment after having started giving some treatment to the deceased. It is contended that treatment was not continued because of failure on the part of the persons who brought him to the hospital to deposit Rs.15,000/-. This resulted in denial of treatment and consequential death of the young boy.

     In brief it is their say that their son Sumanta Mukherjee, aged 20, a student of 2nd Year Electrical Engineering met with an accident on 14th January, 2001 at 8.10 a.m. while he was going to attend his tuition on Motor Cycle. He was knocked down from behind by a Bus of Calcutta Tram Company of Route No.14/1 (bearing No.WB 04 A 0106). Before hitting Sumanta, the bus had already hit one cyclist Vishwajeet Sardar and Sumanta was the second victim of the bus. Since the said cyclist was from the humble background, he was taken to National Calcutta Medical College & Hospital which is a Government Hospital.

     Sumanta who was conscious after the accident was taken to the respondent No.1 Hospital, which was around 1 km. from the site of accident by a crowd of people which had gathered there after the accident, one of them being Mr. Sunil Saha, P.W.3 in the present case. The deceased was insured under the Mediclaim policy issued by the New India Assurance Company Ltd. for a sum of Rs.65,000/-. At the time of reaching the Hospital, deceased was conscious and showed the mediclaim certificate which he was carrying in his wallet to respondent No.3 to 5. He promised them that the charges for the treatment would be paid and that they should start the treatment. Acting on the promise the respondents Hospital started the treatment in its Emergency Room by giving moist oxygen, starting suction and by administering injection deryphyllime, injection lycotin and tetnus toxoid. The respondent No.3 to 5 however after starting the treatment began to insist upon the immediate payment of Rs.15,000/- and threatened to discontinue the same if it was not immediately deposited. Mr. Sunil Saha, (P.W. 3) various other persons present in the crowd as well as Mr. Bhabatosh Roy (P.W. 4) requested the respondent Nos.3 to 5 to continue treating Sumanta and assured them that the payment would be made as soon as they were able to get in touch with the parents of Sumanta. The crowd present there also offered to pay Rs.2,000/- and to hand over the motorcycle to the respondent No.3 to 5. The mediclaim certificate issued by the Insurance Company was also showed again and again to the respondents by the members of the crowd and Mr. Sunil Saha. The respondents, however remained adamant about the immediate deposit of Rs.15,000/- and showing the gross deficiency in service in utter violation of medical ethics. They discontinued the treatment after continuing it for around 45 minutes. Mr. Sunil Saha and other persons from the crowd present there were then forced to take late Sumanta to National Calcutta Medical College and Hospital which is about 7 to 8 Kms. from the Ruby General Hospital. Sumanta, however, died on the way and was declared brought dead at the said hospital at 9.10 a.m.

     On merits, it is submitted by the Respondents that the impact of the accident was fatal in its effect. The patient was brought to the emergency department of the hospital by a non-Bengali passer-by and immediate first aid medical treatment was started at the emergency department by the medical officer on duty without any question of consideration.

     It is the case of the Hospital and the other Respondents that the persons accompanying the patient had declined to sign the usual admission form and had taken the patient away for treatment to a Government Hospital within 4 to 5 minutes of starting of treatment which was started without the procedural formalities for admission.

.A. In background of this bare facts preliminary contention raised is - whether the father of the deceased or the deceased can be regarded as a consumer?

     It is contended by the learned Senior Counsel Mr. Ashok Desai that under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, there is no concept of imposing a consumer on a service provider. There is no law which makes the person injured a consumer of the hospital itself within the meaning of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. A person can be a consumer only by hiring or availing of services for consideration as set out in Section 2(1)(d)(ii) of the Act. He therefore, contended that admittedly, in the present case, no consideration was fixed and no amount was received from the Complainant, and, therefore, there is no relationship between the deceased and or the Complainant with the hospital or doctors and therefore the deceased or his father is not a consumer covered under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. Hence, this complaint is not maintainable. 

     At first blush the contention is much more attractive having force but has no substance in the context of the law and the duties of the Doctors. No doubt, in a society where there is cent per cent commercialisation of each and every walk of the life this submission is cent per cent valid. But, fortunately, we have not reached the stage of 100% commercialis-ation. We still believe in the ethics of noble profession, duties to the society, living animals (Art.51-A of the Constitution of India) and the law on the subject is also settled.

     For appreciating this preliminary contention we would first refer to Sec.2(1)(d)(ii).

     2(1)(d) "Consumer" means any person who hires or avails of any services for a consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment and includes any beneficiary of such services other than the person who hires or avails of the services for consideration paid or promised, or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment, when such services are availed of with the approval of the first mentioned person but does not include a person who avails of such services for any commercial purpose."

     In our view status of "emergency or critically ill patient" would be same as "persons belonging to Poor Class". Both are not in a position to pay may be for separate reasons. 

     The relevant conclusions (para 55) are as under: 

(10). Service rendered at a government hospital/health centre/dispensary where services are rendered on payment of charges and also rendered free of charge to other persons availing of such services would fall within the ambit of the expression `service' as defined in Section 2(1)(o) of the Act, irrespective of the fact that the service is rendered free of charge to persons who do not pay for such service. Free service would also be `service' and the recipient a `consumer' under the Act."

     Keeping the aforesaid principles and the facts of the present case in mind, admittedly, apart from registration fee, Respondent institute charges various amounts such as Hospital charges, Diagnostic charges etc. from some patients and to some patients free of charge treatment is given. Hence, in case where service is rendered free of cost to some patients, it would be service within the ambit of expression `service' as defined in Sec.2(1)(o) of the Act. This would be irrespective of the fact that service rendered free of charge to persons who do not pay for such services. Free services would also be `services' and the recipient would be a consumer under the Act. "Emergency or critically ill" persons, are the beneficiaries of the service which is hired or availed by the paying class. 

     In the present case, admittedly, the deceased availed of the services of the hospital and the Doctors. Doctors started giving treatment to the deceased because of emergency. That itself is availing of the servicesmay be free of cost or promised deferred payment. 

     The reasons for giving the treatment could be (a) on the promise of deferred payment, or (b) on the assumption of the duty as a member of noble profession to discharge such duties in such emergency cases.

(b) The duty of the noble profession is crystallised by various judgments. 

     We would refer to the decision rendered by the Apex Court in Pt. Parmanand Katara Vs. Union of India & Ors. AIR 1989 SC 2039. In that case also it was alleged that a scooterist was knocked down by a speeding car. Seeing the profusely bleeding scooterist, a person who was on the road picked up the injured and took him to the nearest hospital. The doctors refused to attend on the injured and told the man that he should take the patient to a named different hospital located some 20 kilometers away authorised to handle medico legal cases. The Samaritan carried the victim. But, before he reached the hospital the patient succumbed to his injuries. In that set of circumstances in a petition under Article 32 the Court pertinently observed that preservation of human life is of paramount importance. That is so on account of the fact that once life is lost, the status quo ante cannot be restored as resurrection is beyond the capacity of man. Therefore, injured citizen brought for medical treatment, should be instantaneously given medical aid to preserve life. For this purpose, reference was made to Clauses 10 and 13 of the Code of Medical Ethics drawn up with the approval of the Central Government under Section 33 of the Medical Council Act which are as under: 

"10. Obligations to the sick: Though a physician is not bound to treat each and every one asking his services except in emergencies for the sake of humanity and the noble traditions of the profession, he should not only be ever ready to respond to the calls of the sick and the injured, but should be mindful of the high character of his mission and the responsibi-lity he incurs in the discharge of his ministrations, he should never forget that the health and the lives of those entrusted to his care depend on his skill and attention. A physician should endeavour to add to the comfort of the sick by making his visits at the hour indicated to the patients.

13. The patient must not be neglected: A physician is free to choose whom he will serve. He should, however, respond to any request for his assistance in an emergency or whenever temperate public opinion expects the service. Once having undertaken a case, the physician should not neglect the patient, nor should he withdraw from the case without giving notice to the patient, his relatives or his responsible friends sufficiently long in advance of his withdrawal to allow them to secure another medical attendant. No provisionally or fully registered medical practitioner shall wilfully commit an act of negligence that may deprive his patient or patients from necessary medical care." 


1) The name of the patient was not entered into the register;

2) The management of Ruby General Hospital could have admitted the patient taking into consideration the seriousness of the nature of accidents;

3) It is clear from the views of front office assistant that the official procedures and the initial charges for admission prevented the party accompanying the patient to admit the patient in Ruby General Hospital.

     Undisputedly, in the present case, treatment was started and withdrawn and that the withdrawal cannot be justified on any ground. He was given treatment in the emergency room by giving moist oxygen, starting suction and by administering injection deryphyllime, injection lycotin and tetnus toxoid. There was no justifiable ground for discontinuing the treatment.

     It is contended by the learned counsel for the Hospital and Doctors that because the passerby who had brought the deceased in the Hospital wanted to take him to Government Hospital and hence treatment was discontinued, is not at all acceptable. Firstly, if the deceased was to be taken to a Government Hospital, there was no question of bringing him in Ruby Hospital, at the initial stage. As per the record other cyclist who was coming from poor strata was taken to Government Hospital and the deceased was brought to the Ruby Hospital. Secondly, it is established on record from the departmental enquiry quoted above and from the admission of the Front Office Assistant that there was demand for initial admission charges and that prevented the persons accompanying the patient to admit him in Ruby Hospital. It is the procedure of the Hospital to admit the patient after receiving the money. As per the statement of the Chief Manager, the Hospital belongs to commercial health organisation and as per the norms the staff engaged for settlement for admission applied norms to the patient for depositing of advance money. In our view, therefore, the contention of the Hospital that the passer-by who brought the patient to the Hospital wanted to take him to Government Hospital is baseless. In any case, the transfer from one Hospital to the other Hospital was required to be done in the form prescribed and after taking a written undertaking. Nothing was done. This establishes beyond doubt that admission to deceased Sumanta was refused solely on the ground that the persons who brought him in the Hospital were not in a position to deposit the amount of Rs.15,000/-.

     Further once the treatment has started, it would mean that the Complainant has hired the services. May be at the relevant time the consideration was not fixed or not paid. But, it was either promised, deferred or because of implicit duty of a noble profession in such emergency cases.

     In the result, the complaint is allowed. The Respondents are directed to pay in all Rs.10 lakhs to the Complainant. There shall be no order as to costs.

Dealer and manufacturer are jointly and severally liable for selling a defective good

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi

Revision Petition No. 1363 of 2003
(From the order dated 17-2-2003 in S.C. Case No. 473/A/98 of the State Commission, West Bengal)

Ashoke Khan                     ---- Petitioner 
Abdul Karim & Ors.            ---- Respondents

Before:- Hon'ble Mr. Justice M.B.Shah, President, Dr. P.D.Shenoy, Member.

Dated:30th August 2005



       The say of the Petitioner is that he is an authorised dealer of M/s. Bengal Tools Ltd. which is dealing in the sale of power tillers used for the purpose of agriculture and also as a carrier under the name and style of `Krishi Pragati'. Respondent No.1 (Complainant) approached the Petitioner for purchasing the `power tiller' after obtaining a loan of Rs.70,000 from the State Bank of India, Murshidabad, by mortgaging the land. The price of the power tiller was Rs.80,000/-. The power tiller was delivered on 27.3.1996, which was hypothecated with the Bank. 

        It is the contention of the Complainant that on taking the delivery of the power tiller, it was noticed that it had developed snags. Therefore, the Complainant approached the Petitioner (the dealer) for repair of the same, during the warranty period. The Petitioner sent mechanics on several occasions to repair the said tiller, but the defects could not be removed. It is also contended that on 23.1.1998 one mechanic of the Petitioner took away some valuable parts of the said power tiller. The Complainant failed to get any relief from the Petitioner and the Respondent No.2, the manufacturer, M/s. Bengal Tools Ltd., therefore, filed Complaint Case No. 18 of 1998 before the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Murshidabad. The District Forum arrived at the conclusion that the Petitioner was the authorised dealer of Respondent No.2, the manufacturer; by its letter dated 29th December, 1998, the dealer admitted that the power tiller was not performing normally; and, it was not of standard quality. On the basis of the correspondence, the District Forum arrived at the conclusion that immediately after purchase of the said tiller it developed some snags and during the warranty period some materials were also supplied. Considering the aforesaid facts, by judgment and order dated 31.8.1998, the District Forum allowed the complaint and directed the dealer and the manufacturer (Petitioner and Respondent No.2) to jointly and severally return the consideration money after deducting 10% towards depreciation for the use of the said power tiller.

     Admittedly, the order passed by the District Forum was not challenged by the manufacturer nor any revision application was filed by it.

     Against that judgment and order, the dealer preferred Appeal No.473/A/98 before the State Commission. After considering all the relevant facts, the State Commission dismissed the appeal with a direction that the amount shall be paid to the bank as the power tiller was hypothecated with the Bank. 

     Aggrieved by the judgment and order of the State Commission, the dealer has filed the present revision petition.

     Learned Counsel appearing for the Petitioner (the dealer) submitted that for the manufacturing defects the dealer cannot be held jointly and severally liable to pay any compensation to the Complainant. For this purpose, he relied upon the observation of the Apex Court in Hindustan Motors Ltd. & Anr. Vs. N. Sivakumar & Anr. (2000) 10 SCC 654, which reads as under: 

     "We have heard learned counsel for the parties. 

Leave granted. 

      Learned Senior Counsel appearing on behalf of the appellants has stated before us and it is also mentioned in the synopsis of facts given in the special leave petition that M/s Hindustan Motors who are the appellants before us have stopped manufacturing Ambassador NOVA model cars and, therefore, the order of the National Commission that a new car be supplied to the respondent cannot be complied with.

     In this situation, we are left with no alternative except to direct that the order passed by the State Commission for the refund of Rs.1,77,200 along with interest at the rate of 12 per cent from the date of the complaint till actual payment, together with a sum of Rs.50,000/- as compensation for mental pain and agony, be complied with as we are fully satisfied, on the facts of the case, that the appellants had sold a defective car to the respondent and the offer of the appellants for repairs including replacement of a new engine block will not be a substitute for a new car which the respondent legally deserves to be supplied. The order of the State Commission for payment of Rs.3000 towards costs is also maintained.

     The observations of the National Commission to the following effect:

"An apprehension has been expressed by the dealer that the burden of this may ultimately fall upon the dealer. We make it clear that for the manufacturing defects in the vehicle, the dealer cannot be held liable. The liability must be borne by the manufacturer." are also maintained.

The appeal is disposed of accordingly."

     As against this, Mr. Ray, learned Counsel for the Respondent No.1 (Complainant) submitted that the orders passed by the District Forum and the State Commission are justified on the facts, as agent/dealer and the manufacturer are jointly and severally liable because the purchaser of the vehicle knows the dealer and not the manufacturer. The privity of contract is between the dealer and the purchaser. He also submitted that under the Contract Act dealer or agent would be jointly and severally liable. For this purpose, reliance is placed on Sections 226 and 237 of the Contract Act. In support of his contention he has also placed reliance on the decision of the Apex Court in Jose Philip Mampillil Vs. Premier Automobiles Ltd. & Anr. (2004) 2 SCC 278, the relevant portion is as under:

"8. In our view, it is shameful that a defective car was sought to be sold as a brand new car. It is further regrettable that, instead of acknowledging the defects, the 1st respondent chose to deny liability and has contested this matter. For this failure in service the appellant is entitled to the following reliefs:

(a)"..The liability to pay the repair cost will be joint and several of both the respondents. The 2nd respondent is being held jointly liable as it was the duty of the 2nd respondent to have refused to deliver a defective car and in any case to have properly repaired the car during the warranty period.."

(b)It is clarified that the liability to pay is, as stated above, joint and several. In the event of the amount not being paid forthwith, the District Forum shall ensure execution expeditiously and immediately, if necessary, by making the 2nd respondent pay initially. It will then be for the 2nd respondent to claim reimbursement from the 1st respondent, if in law they are entitled to do so.

(c) There is no doubt that the appellant has had to suffer mental agony in taking delivery of a defective car after having paid for a brand new car and in taking the car again and again to the dealer for repairs. For this mental agony and torture, we direct that the appellant shall be entitled to a sum of Rs.40,000. The liability to pay this amount shall also be joint and several of both the respondents. This amount is to be paid within a period of one month from today. The District Forum shall ensure payment, if necessary, by execution.

(d) The 1st respondent had unnecessarily filed an appeal before the State Forum. . We, therefore, direct the 1st respondent to pay to the appellant by way of costs a sum of Rs.50,000/-.

     The aforesaid subsequent judgment rendered in Philip Mampillil Vs. Premier Automobiles Ltd. & Anr. (Supra) makes the position clear that dealer/agent and manufacturer would be jointly and severally liable. Further, considering the provisions of Section 226 of the Contract Act, it cannot be said that agent or dealer is not jointly and severally liable for the defects in the `power tiller', as the contract is through the dealer. Therefore, privity of contract is with him. It is true that normally such liability with regard to the manufacturing defects is to be borne by the manufacturer. But, that would not mean that the dealer is absolved from joint and several liability. As held in the aforesaid case the District Forum shall ensure execution expeditiously and immediately, if necessary, by making the petitioner to pay initially and, then, it will be for the petitioner to claim reimbursement from the manufacturer (Respondent No.2).

     In the result, the Revision Petition is dismissed. There shall be no order as to costs.

Back-dating of a policy by LIC is not permissible without the consent of the insured

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi

Revision Petition No. 1268 of 1998
(From the order dated 6-5-1998 in Appeal No. 1346 of 1997 of the State Commission, Maharashtra)

Smt. Pramila Vikram Khillare             ---- Petitioner 
The Branch Manager, LIC of India       ---- Respondent

Before:- Hon'ble Mr. Justice M.B.Shah, President, Dr. P.D.Shenoy, Member.

Dated:25th July 2005



     Petitioner, Smt. Pramila Vikaram Khilare, filed complaint No. 67 of 1995 before the Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Aurangabad, against the L.I.C. (Life Insurance Corporation of India), contending that the husband of the Complainant had taken an insurance policy for a sum of Rs.25,000/- on 30th March, 1993 by depositing the first premium amount. At that time the age of the deceased was 43 years. Initial premium was paid on 30th March, 1993; and, thereafter, the subsequent quarterly premiums were also payable on 30th September, 30th December and so on. The husband of the Complainant died on 30th July, 1994 leaving behind the applicant (Complainant), five daughters and one son. The LIC repudiated the claim on the ground that the deceased had failed to pay the premium for the last quarter which was payable on 12th June, 1994, adding the grace period of 30 days, the deceased was required to pay the premium before 12th July, 1994. As he had expired on 13th July, 1994, the heirs were not entitled to the benefit of the insurance. 

     It is admitted that the deceased paid the first premium on 30th June, 1993. However, it is contended by the LIC that the policy was issued with back date commencing from 12th March, 1993; and, therefore, the premium was payable on 12th June, 1994. The deceased expired after the expiry of the grace period of one month and, therefore, the policy had lapsed, and, hence, the Complainant was not entitled for the policy amount in view of the rules 4 and 5 printed on the overleaf of the policy. The claim for compensation of Rs.10,000/- was also denied. 

     The District Forum by its judgment and order dated 5.9.1997 allowed the complaint by holding that the first premium was paid on 30th March, 1993 in a routine manner; counting the 30 days grace period for paying the premium of 30th June, the deceased was required to pay the premium before 30th July and the person had expired before 30th July; and, therefore, the heirs were entitled to the benefit of the insurance. The District Forum observed that there is nothing on record to show that the deceased had given any option for issuing back-dated policy. No consent letter of the deceased to that effect was produced by the LIC. The District Forum also observed that the life insurance policies are obtained by persons for benefit of their family members and if the claims are going to be refused on such technical ground, public at large would suffer; and, there was no reason for not taking a sympathetic view. The District Forum, therefore, directed the LIC to pay the amount with interest at the rate of 18% p.a. from the date of the death of the deceased.

     Against that order the Insurance Company preferred Appeal No.1346 of 1997 before the State Commission, Maharashtra at Mumbai. That appeal was allowed by observing that even though the first premium receipt is dated 31.3.1993, the date of the commencement of the risk in respect of the life of the deceased was shown as 12th March, 1993. The policy was issued on 8.6.1993 and in the said policy the same date is mentioned. If there was any mistake, the deceased ought to have drawn the attention of the LIC. The State Commission also observed that the premium due on 12th June, 1993 was paid 12th September, 1993 with a late fee of Rs.3/-; and that the subsequent premium was paid on 7.1.1994, within the grace period. And, that the premium of March, 1994 was paid even before the due date. Therefore, it was established that the insured was fully aware of the date of the commencement of the risk as 12th March, 1993. Hence, as the premium was not paid during the grace period, the finding recorded by the District Forum cannot be sustained. The appeal was, therefore, allowed.

     Against that judgment and order, the Complainant has preferred this Revision Petition. Learned Counsel for the Petitioner submitted that there was no justifiable ground for back-dating the insurance policy; and for doing so no consent was given by the deceased. In such circumstances, for illiterate persons, no such adverse inference could be drawn that the deceased was knowing about the back-dating. 

     As against this, learned Counsel for the LIC submitted that as the amount was not paid before 12th July, 1993, and the person had expired on 13th July, 1993, the heirs are not entitled to any benefit. He submitted that there is no justifiable ground for interfering with the order passed by the State Commission.

     As stated above, undisputedly, the husband of the Complainant obtained the LIC policy for a sum of Rs.25,000/- by submitting the proposal form dated 29.3.1993. It is also mentioned in the reply filed by the LIC to the Revision Petition that the date of birth of the proposer was given as 12th March, 1950 and has given his age as 43 years the policy was issued covering the risk from 12th March, 1993. This was mentioned in the policy as well as in the acceptance letter. The husband of the deceased had not raised any objection against the commencement of the risk w.e.f. 12th March, 1993. It is also pointed out that in the policy it has been stated that the policy holder should examine the policy and if any mistake was found return it immediately for correction. 

     In our view, the submissions made by the learned Counsel for the Petitioner requires to be accepted. There is nothing on record to indicate that the deceased has given any consent or has applied for back-dating the policy. In such circumstances there was no justifiable reason for the Insurance Company to back date the policy. In a similar matter this Commission, in the case of Life Insurance Corporation of India & Ors. Vs. Miss Anu Mohanot & Ors. First Appeal No. 620 of 1993 decided on 29th May, 1997 reported as 1986-99 NC & SC on Consumer Cases (Part III) 4272 (NS), has observed that back-dating is not permissible without the consent of the parties. For this purpose, reliance was placed on the guidelines issued by the LIC which are mentioned in para 8, as under:

"I. Commencement of Risk and Dating Back of Policies. The risk under the Corporation's Policies commences on the date of receipt of the first premium in full or the date of Acceptance whichever is the later, but if the acceptance of a Proposal is conditional upon the proposer's compliance with any requirements, then the risk under the Policy will commence on the date on which all the requirements are satisfactorily complied with or on the date of receipt of the first Premium in full, whichever is the later". 

     There are certain other conditions which are referred to in the said judgment. The Commission has observed that back-dating of the insurance policy could be done at the request of insured, in accordance with the principles and terms of the back dating a policy irrespective of the commencement of a scheme of insurance. As stated above, there is nothing on record to establish that the Complainant, an illiterate person, at any point of time requested for back-dating the policy. Suo motu the LIC back-dated the same as the date of birth of the deceased was 12th March, 1950.

     Further, in the present case, it is a hard case. The deceased was regularly depositing the quarterly premium. On occasion, he paid it beyond the grace period by paying interest on the amount on the premium payable. But for his death, it is apparent that he would have paid the premium. Secondly, it is not that the grace period cannot be extended by one or two days. If the LIC had taken humanitarian view, it would not have repudiated the claim.

     In the present case, Clause (2) of the Policy reads thus:

"2. Payment of premiums: A grace period of one month but not less than 30 days will be allowed for payment of yearly, half-yearly or quarterly premiums and 15 days, for monthly premiums. If death occurs within this period and before the payment of the premium then due, the policy will still be valid and the Sum Assured paid after deduction of the said premium as also unpaid premium/s falling due before the next anniversary of the Policy. If the premium is not paid before the expiry of the days of grace, the policy lapses."

     The aforesaid clause specifically provides that grace period of one month shall not be less than 30 days. One month can extend upto 31 days. And, therefore, in the present case, during the grace period the deceased expired. Hence, as per the aforesaid clause the policy would be valid and the heirs are entitled to the sum assured after deduction of the premium payable.

     Further, in the present case, the receipts issued to the deceased for payment of premium nowhere say that it shall be paid on or before a particular date. It only mentions that premium would become due in `JUN 1994' without any specific date. Same is the position with regard to the previous receipts. Therefore, it will be difficult to hold that insurance premium was to be paid before 12th July, 1994. 

     In the result, the Revision Petition is allowed. The impugned order of the State Commission is set aside. The order passed by the District Forum is confirmed. It would be open to the Insurance Company to deduct the premium which was payable by the deceased as per Clause (2) quoted above. However, with the modification that the LIC shall pay interest at 9% p.a. instead of 18% p.a. as directed by the District Forum. There shall be no order as to costs.

Legal Aid for needy consumers

     The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi, the apex Consumer Court, in the interest of protecting the common man has launched a Legal Aid Programme, with the active cooperation of the NCDRC Bar Association.

     The Legal Aid aims at helping ordinary litigants who cannot afford an Advocate to represent their cases before the National Commission. Needy litigants are provided with the services of an Advocate, out of the list of 'amicus curiae'. The honorarium to the amicus curiae is met from the Legal Aid Account. Under the Presidentship of Justice D.P.Wadhwa, the National Commission is indeed quite eager to support all those litigants who are in need.

     Individuals who are in need to file Revision Petitions before the National Commission and are interested to utilise the Legal Aid, may write to:

     Sri S.K.Sharma, President, NCDRC Bar Association, Legal Aid Programme, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, 5th Floor, A Wing, Janpath Bhavan, Janpath New Delhi-110001.

Hurrah for the Consumer?
                                                                                     - Anil Dharker

     Monday, March 15 was World Consumer Day. A Mumbai NGO had organised a meeting where prominent speakers were invited. A large audience was expected because this issue concerns us all. No one turned up. Well, not really no one, but such a smattering of people that at the appointed time there were more people on the dais than in the auditorium and people had to be rustled up to make things look respectable.

     If the silent majority wants to remain silent; if the silent majority does not even want to listen to others speaking on its behalf, then surely it deserves whatever it gets. The meek (and the apathetic) never really inherit the earth.

     As it happens, market forces have ensured that things aren't really as bad for the Indian consumer as they might bet. They were, of course, when our economy was (more or less) closed and our markets protected. It seems like centuries ago, but it was just over 20 years ago that we had the choice of only an Ambassador car or a Premier Padmini. And there was a premium and a waiting period for both. Scooters meant the Bajaj two wheeler, and not only did they have a waiting period, they had the nerve to take a deposit to use as they liked. And in case you have forgotten, cars and scooters were all old technology, almost World War II vintage. And when you turned on your Black and White EC TV set (the best, they said, so a waiting period), you got Doordarshan and Doordarshan.

     The scenario certainly has changed: the best car manufacturers in the world woo us, and Bajaj struggles to keep up, while Doordarshan survives only because of its terrestrial network. In some areas at least, the customer is king. Competition ensures that we are in that position where even Indian Airlines actually tries new market strategies! Should we, then, say that all's well for the customer? That we don't need consumer watchdogs or World Consumer Day? Unfortunately, that is not so, and in nearly every case where he is shortcharged, you can be sure that either the government or a government agency is involved.

     The in-the news example of this concerns TV cable operators. Every time a cricket series involving India is about to start, there is a tussle between broadcaster and the cable operator. Whoever wins in the end, the loser is always the consumer. To anyone who studies this never-ending battle, it is very clear who is the villain: it's the cable operator and the cable operator only. He is like a shop-keeper who tells Hindustan Lever, I will stock your soaps provided you accept my figures for sales and my idea of the price. There is an easy solution to this impasse; we need competition among cable operators so that the consumer in any locality has the ability to call the shots. But, instead, he is faced with a monopoly. So what did the Government do? Try and foist the Conditional Access System (CAS) on us, which would have helped you guessed it: the cable operator. Now that CAS is mercifully dropped, is there talk of operator competition? Not even a word.

     CAS was dropped because of customer resistance. Then there were the other instances where the Government should have been involved, but wasn't. There was the case of the non-vegetarian chocolates. The worms in Cadbury chocolates were discovered by a consumer who went to the media, not by the government agency appointed to keep a check. Similarly, the high levels of pesticides in Coke and Pepsi were highlighted by an NGO, not by a government agency.

     The worst case of government inaction (negligence at best, connivance at worst) is in the case of drugs and medicine. In spite of (or is it because of) the Food and Drug Authority (FDA), the menace of spurious drugs has reached such massive proportions that it might be better not to treat an illness than to treat it. What does the FDA do? Raid a high profile dietician. It makes news alright, but solves no problem.

     There are so many other areas some major, some minor where the government should be involved and involved completely, but does nothing at all.

     Among the worst is the case of the meat and poultry industry. Both use slaughtering techniques that are extremely unhygienic and extremely cruel. Abattoirs are supposed to be checked, but aren't. As for poultry, you can slaughter a chicken anywhere, anytime, anyhow. No one seems to care.

     The list of other areas where regulatory authorities seem to do nothing is very, very long: we have dangerous levels of pesticides in our food, our hospitals use x-rays indiscriminately; the state of lorries, water-tankers and public buses is often terrible and always dangerous; LPG cylinders cause the occasional explosion and kill the usual number of people; electrical gadgets make one's hair stand on edge; nutritional facts are printed on packaging, but everyone seems to take the manufacturer's word for them; manufacturers give all-encompassing warranties, but hide the small print that makes them worthless.

     Then there is the issue of the Hidden Persuaders: why is subliminal advertising allowed? You won't know it's happening because the pitches are so well disguised in popular serials and movies that you are caught off guard.

     What about bait advertising? Time-share holiday companies are notorious for calling you to tell you that you have won a holiday to Goa. All you have to do is meet their sales reps, listen to their spiel and keep your cheque book handy. (By the way, with the invitation they always ask you to bring your cheques). Add to that editorial advertising, plugs for products in articles in publications of all kinds, and you know you (the consumer) are being assailed from all sides. The latest is unsolicited advertising through mobile phone SMS.

     If the government will not be on the consumer's side, and the consumer himself shows apathy, who will help him? The consumer body watchdogs, most of them made up of part-time, voluntary workers, with noble intentions and not much else? It's an unequal battle when you consider the experts ranged against them. The only way seems to be to use the media and the courts. And for NGOs to activate government bodies, rather than fight the battle themselves.

       [The author Sri Anil Dharker is a journalist, media critic and writer]

Courtesy: The Hindu

Read Advantage Consumer, monthly newsletter of Consumer Protection Council, Rourkela. 
Consumer Protection Council, Rourkela
B/90, Sector-7, Rourkela-769003. Orissa. India
Chief Mentor: