To reduce pendency at consumer courts, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) president R K Agrawal on Saturday pitched for an in-house mechanism to dispose of consumer cases involving petty amount especially against PSUs and the Railways.
A ceiling on the value of goods and services should also be fixed by the government to ensure there is no further appeal in petty cases in state consumer commissions, which in turn will save the time of courts, he said.
"There are many petty consumer cases against PSUs, Railways and other government departments which can be disposed of quickly. The government should fix a ceiling on such cases," Agrawal said addressing a conference on functioning on consumer courts here.
The cost of litigation in such cases may be far more than the stakes involved, the pendency of these cases cause unending harassment to small consumers also, he said.
"It would be better, if an in-house mechanism could take care of such petty matters so as to save quality time of the consumer fora," Agrawal said without disclosing the number of pendency cases involving petty amount.
Stating that the efficacy of the existing system has taken a "severe beating", he said it is high time that a serious thought is given to co-ordinate the activities of all the agencies engaged in the field.
The problem of pendency was mainly due to lack of infrastructure, staff strength, more appeals and repeated adjournments, he added.
For speedy disposal of cases, the NCDRC chief said, there is a need to strengthen both qualitatively and quantitatively the capacity of the existing system.
In states where 7,000 cases are pending, two to three additional benches are required, while in Uttar Pradesh and Maharasthra states commissions where the pendency is more than 18,000, seven or eight additional benches are needed, he said.
On an average, a bench can dispose of 1,000-1,200 cases in a year.
In total, 3,32,462 complaints are pending at district consumer courts, while 20,240 cases pending at the National commission as on September 25, he added.
Agrawal said, the National Commission has a strength of 12 including the president, but for the last one-and-half years it is working with reduced strength of 8-9 members, as a result of which the pendency has gone up.
"If, in addition to full strength, we get at least 4 or 5 additional members, with full infrastructural support, not only the backlog will be cleared but we will be in a position to dispose of fresh cases within a maximum period of six months of its institution, if not earlier," he said.
On delay in filling up vacant posts, Agrawal said a resolution adopted in 2011 for prompt appointments is not being followed in letter and spirit.
As a result, 38 posts of members in various state commissions, 104 posts of presidents and 416 posts of members in district fora across the country are lying vacant as on August 31.