As consumers look to speedier justice when they are wronged and cheated, the wait seems to get longer. There is a consistent downward spiral in the disposal of cases at the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (SCDRC), Mumbai. As per information provided under Right to Information (RTI) by the SCDRC to FPJ, the disposal rate has dropped from under 30 per cent in 2018 to less than 5 per cent as on September 20, 2022.
The cumulative pendency on the other hand jumped by 66.7 per cent from the 2018 period to September 20, and cases filed each year saw a fall with 2022 seeing less than half the cases being filed as compared to 2018.
The FPJ had sought details after the number of cases being disposed of fell, lately. Officials at the Commission said that this was largely due to vacancies.
Even the president's post was filled only four months ago, after being vacant for a long period and only one out of three courts functioning. The state Commission takes up matters over Rs 50 lakhbutless than Rs 2 crore after amendments to the Consumer Protection Act.
Earlier it looked after cases over Rs 20 lakh but less than Rs 1 crore. The figures provided include consumer cases, appeals, revision petition,first appeal / appeal, transfer application, review application and those that are null. Asper the information provided, 64 cases were disposed of as on September 20, 2022, as compared to 1,481 cases that were filed this year, till the period of review.
The disposal rate fell even before the pandemic. In 2018, the disposal percentage was 29.30. This fell to 19. 27 per cent in 2019, while filing of new cases saw a jump as compared to 2018. A total of 3,276 cases were filed in 2018 while 3,597 were filedin2019.The jumpincases being filed was 9 per cent, while the fall in cases being disposed of was a whopping 38.53 per cent in 2019 as compared to 2018.
While the cases being filed jumped and fell in successive years, those being disposed of saw a constant decline. The pandemic years of 2020 and 2021 saw new cases being filed fall by more than 57 per cent as compared to 2019. But the fall in the cases disposed of fell too.
From 2019 to 2020,the fallin cases disposed of was more than 71 per cent. In 2020, for 1,519 new cases, only 195 cases were disposed of at a rate of 12.84 per cent. In 2021, new cases being filed jumped to 1,718 cases, indicating a jump of 13 per cent but disposals continued to fall. Total disposals in 2019 stood at 184 cases (10.71 per cent).