Lawyers with 10 years experience eligible for appointment as President, members of State, District Consumer Commissions: Supreme Court
In a significant ruling on Friday, the Supreme Court held that lawyers having at least 10 years standing were eligible for appointment as President and members of both the State and District Consumer Commissions.
Upholding the order of the Bombay High Court (Nagpur Bench) over the matter, the Bench of Justice M.R. Shah and Justice M.M. Sundresh quashed the provisions of the Consumer Protection Rules, 2020, framed by the Central government under Section 101 of the Consumer Protection Act 2019.
As per the Consumer Protection Rules, 2020 framed by the Union of India, lawyers having minimum professional experience of 20 years and 15 years were eligible for adjudication as members to the State Consumer Commissions and District Forums, respectively, after qualifying a written examination.
The Apex Court, exercising power under Article 142 of the Constitution, ruled that till the time amendments were made in order to do complete justice under Article 142, a person having Bachelor’s degree from a recognised university, having ability, integrity standing, special knowledge and professional experience of not less than 10 years in consumer affairs, law, public affairs and administration, shall be treated as qualified for appointment as President and member of State and District Commissions.
It further directed that appointment should be based on performance in two papers. Qualifying marks in the papers should be 50 percent and there must be a viva for 50 marks each.
The Bench ruled that Rule 6(9) lacked transparency and conferred uncontrolled discretion to the Selection Committee to determine its procedure, as well as recommend candidates to be appointed as Presidents and members of the State and District Commission.
Stating that there was no transparency in the selection criteria, the Apex Court noted that undeserving and unqualified candidates may get appointed through this process, which may frustrate the object and purpose of the Act.
Regarding the requirement of written test, the Bench noted that the Commissions were quasi judicial authorities and the standards expected from the Tribunal should be as nearly as possible to the appointment of Judges.
It stressed on the need to assess skill and competency of the candidates before being empanelled, stating that Rule 2020 did not contemplate written examinations to assess the merits of candidates.