Mumbai: A consumer body has written to the central government seeking correction of an inadvertent error that omits the role of consumer commissions in case of mediation. The error, they pointed out in their letter to Arjun Ram Meghwal, Minister of State for Law and Justice, Government of India, will lead to consumer commissions unnecessarily facing difficulties in referring matters for mediation.
Tenth Schedule of the Mediation Act, 2023
The letter was written by Mumbai Grahak Panchayat, a registered voluntary consumer organization active in the field of consumer education, consumer protection, and consumer advocacy. The letter asks for the need to amend the Tenth Schedule of the Mediation Act, 2023, and the consequential amendments it brings to the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. It was written after the Act was recently notified by the President after passing both houses of Parliament.
The relevant portion of the Tenth Schedule states, "the District Commission or State Commission or the National Commission, as the case may be, shall either, on an application by the parties at any stage of proceedings, refer the disputes for settlement by mediation under the Mediation Act 2023."
"From the above provision, it is evident that the Parliament intended to provide two options for initiating mediation when the word "either" is used. One option is by initiative from the parties, and the other option is the initiative from the Consumer Commissions. However, it is noticed that this other option is missing in the text of the Mediation Act as notified in the official gazette," said advocate Shirish Deshpande, Chairman MGP, in his letter to Meghwal. Deshpande said that they compliment the government for having passed the Act but some amendments were needed.
He added, "Any attempt to refer the parties to mediation by any Consumer Commission is likely to be questioned on the ground that Sec. 37 of the CPA, 2019, only allows the reference of any dispute for mediation on the application by the parties and that the Consumer Commissions are not vested with the powers to refer the pending matter for mediation." The letter states that the inadvertent omission can be corrected by adding 'or if it appears at any stage of proceedings, that there exists an element of settlement, it may direct the parties to undertake mediation.'