Growing development in trade and globalization of commerce has led to the vast expansion of business and trade, as a result of which a variety of consumer goods have appeared in the market to cater the needs of the consumers and a host of services have been made available to the consumers. In order to protect the interests of the consumers, Consumer Protection Act 1986 was enacted. Which is in vogue in Bihar.
In accordance with the provisions of the consumer protection Act 1986, in Bihar a state commission and 37 District Forum have been set up. However, as envisaged in the Act State Consumer Protection council has also been set up and District Consumer Protection Councils are being established.
As provided in Consumer Protection Act 1986 a State Commission has been established comprising of a president who is a retired High Court Judge and two Members, one of whom is woman and who are above 35 years of age and possess bachelor's degree from a recognized university. Similarly 37 District Forums has also been established comprising of a President who is either a retired District Judge or a retired Additional District Judge and two members one of whom is a woman, who are above 35 years of age and possess bachelor's degree from a recognized university.
State Commission hears and decides the claim of consumers above Rs. 20 lakhs and up to Rs. 1 crore whereas District Forums hears and decides the claims of the consumers up to Rs. 20 lakh. State Commission also hears and decides appeals against the orders of the District Forums. However in Bihar for State Commission 15 posts of office staff and for each District Forum 10 posts of office staff have created.
As envisaged in the Consumer Protection Act 1986, in the State of Bihar, at State Level, a State Consumer Protection Council has already been constituted. Constitution of District Protection Councils are also in process. Protection Councils are being established with the object of promoting and protecting the rights of the consumers.
In Bihar, in order to coordinate between State Government and the Consumer Courts a Directorate has been established. The Directorate also supervises the functioning of the Consumer Courts and tries to remove the difficulties arising in Consumer Courts in its smooth functioning. However, Directorate is functioning as a section of the Food, Supply and Commerce Department, as it has no separate identify and there is a lack of staff.
The smooth functioning of the consumer courts depends on the facilities provided to them. However in Bihar at the cost of Rs. 8.79 lakh each, District Forum's building have been constructed. Each District Forum of the State is functioning in its own building. Similarly each District Forum have been provided necessary equipments at the cost of Rs. 1.21 lakh each. District Forums has also been provided telephone and fax.
The combined building of State Commission and Patna District Forum is under construction. The Building construction Department has been provided Rs. 48.70 lakh for its construction. Soon the construction will be completed. However a sum of Rs. 24.35 lakh is lying with the State Commission under the head infrastructure. This amount will be spent only when the building is complete.
Other then this, computerization programme of State Commission and District Forums are also in its way. In the first phase State Commission and nine District Forums are being computerized. Computers has arrived in the State Commission and concerning District Forums. NIC has been requested to provide estimate in installing these computers, so that Finance Department may be requested to provide money.
The main purpose of establishment of the consumer courts was to provide speedy justice to the consumers. The recent amendment in the Consumer Protection Act has simplified the process of filing and hearing of the cases so that they be disposed off within 90 and 150 days. However, in Bihar the State Commission has disposed off more than 6700 cases and the District Forums has disposed off more than 50640 cases till now.