New Delhi

The Supreme Court has held that a non- advocate could appear before the consumer disputes redressal forum if he/ she is appearing on an individual case basis without charging a fee and also without any pre- existing relati

onship with the complainant, reports IANS. A bench of Justice Dalveer Bhandari, Justice Dr.

Mukundakam Sharma and Justice Anil R Dave in their judgment on Monday said: Pre- existing relationship includes relatives, neighbours, business associates or personal friends.

The court said this in its detailed suggestion to the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission ( NCDRC) for framing rules to facilitate the appearance of representatives who, however, are not legal practitioners before consumer forums. However, speaking for the bench, Justice Bhandari said that the commission may consider creating a process through which nonadvocates may be accredited to practice as representatives before a ( consumer) forum.

The court further said that accredited non- advocates ” shall be allowed to appear before a forum on regular basis”. The basic issue that was sought to be addressed by the larger bench was ” whether a person under the purported cover of being an alt39 agentalt39 ( non- legal practitioner) could represent a large number of person before the consumer forum”. The apex courts suggestions to NCDRC came while dismissing the appeals challenging the Bombay High Court judgment of September 4, 2002, which held that only the authorised agents can appear under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

The high court judgment came after the State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission stayed proceedings in all the cases where non- advocate representatives were appearing on behalf of the complainants before district consumer forums.

Holding that the high court judgment could not be said to be ” erroneous and unsustainable in law”, the apex court directed the NCDRC to frame comprehensive rules within three months of its order.

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