Supreme Court says “Consumer Forum an additional remedy”

A bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and U U Lalit hearing the appeal from National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (NCDRC) said, “Provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, are in addition to and not in derogation of any other law. Thus, the Act provides for additional remedies. The authorities under the Act exercise quasi-judicial powers. The award of damages (in the case filed by Sinha) is aimed at bringing about qualitative change in the attitude of service providers.”

The bench further directed (NCDRC) to formulate mechanism for speedy disposal and use of Alternative Dispute Resolution(ADR) in Consumer Fora, and also opinied that nursing homes without an intensive care unit (ICU) facility can’t carry out surgeries on a patient as absence of an ICU posed danger to the patient’s life. The court gave the ruling on a petition filed by Bijoy Kumar Sinha who lost his wife due to alleged medical negligence of Dr Biswanath Das who conducted a hysterectomy surgery at Kolkata’s Ashutosh Nursing Home in Kolkata. The nursing home did not have an ICU facility.

The petitioner, Bijoy Kumar Sinha, died while fighting a lengthy 23-year-long litigation over his wife’s death, in consumer forums before his son Soumik pursued the case to get justice for his mother in the Supreme Court.

The court awarded a compensation of Rs. 5 Lakhs to the deceased husband and legal heirs within 3 months.This ruling is a consumer- friendly and means that even if a realtor has been proceeded against under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, people won’t be barred from taking recourse to consumer forums to claim relief for defective services. The Supreme Court said though an alternative dispute redressal mechanism for settlement of disputes outside courts was applicable only to civil cases, “there is no reason to exclude its applicability to consumer fora”.

The Supreme Court clarified that “It will be open to the national commission and the state commissions to coordinate with the national legal services authority and state legal services authorities for settlement of disputes by resorting to alternative dispute redressal mechanism”

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