The Supreme Court on Wednesday warned of imposing exemplary costs on state governments in case of failure to submit a status report within a week regarding the vacancies, including on the infrastructure, in State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission.
A bench of Justices S K Kaul and M M Sundresh said it would take stern action if reports are not submitted and a cost of Rs 2 lakh will be imposed on them which will be recovered from officers.
"The counsel for states assured that the deficiencies would be addressed within a week. We remind the defaulting states that we will take stern action if reports are not submitted and a Rs 2 lakh cost will be imposed on them. This will be recoverable from officers. If this is the only language understood, we will do it," the bench said.
The top court was hearing a suo motu case on inaction of the governments in appointing president and members/staff of Districts and State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission and inadequate infrastructure across India.
"Respect for time schedules is not being kept and this throws hearing out of gear. We don't seem to discipline ourselves with any sense of time," the bench said.
At the outset, senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, appointed as amicus curiae in the case, informed the bench that all the states have not submitted reports in the prescribed format. The bench expressed displeasure at the non-compliance by the states of its order dated October 22, 2021. Sankaranarayanan said the report filed by Bihar had no information on building space and staff.
"So you want us to issue bailable warrants to you now? Why is the Chief Secretary not there? Is this the only way the states will adhere to," the bench said.
Expressing displeasure over delay in appointments in the Districts and State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, the top court had earlier said if the government does not want the tribunals then it should abolish the Consumer Protection Act. The apex court had said it is unfortunate that the top court is being called upon to examine and fill up vacancies in tribunals.
"If the government does not want the tribunals then abolish the act... We are stretching our jurisdiction to see the vacancies are filled in. Normally we should not spend time on this and the posts should be filled. It's unfortunate that the judiciary is called upon to see that these posts are manned.... This is not a very happy situation," the bench had said.
The top court had in January said that consumer rights are "important rights" and non-manning of posts and inadequate infrastructure in district and state consumer commissions across the country would deprive the citizens of redressal of their grievances.
The top court had appointed senior advocate Gopal Shankaranarayan and lawyer Aaditya Narain as amicus curiae to assist it in the matter.
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