WHAT IS CONSUMER PROTECT ACT?
The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was enacted to protect the interests of consumers in India. It was made for the establishment of consumer councils and other authorities for the settlement of consumer’s grievances and matters connected with it. It gives easy and fast compensation to consumer’s grievances. It also safeguards and encourages consumers to stand against the insufficiency and flaws in goods and services. This Act is used to cover all goods and services of all public, private, or cooperative sectors, except those exempted by the central government.
Some of the important and significant cases under CP Acts are:[i]:
1. Sehgal School of Competition Vs. Dalbir Singh:
It is one of the landmark consumer protection act cases and judgements. A student was asked to deposit lump sum fees of Rs. 18,734 for coaching of medical entrance examination for the next two years. This amount was deposited by the student in two complete instalments. However, the student realized that the quality of the coaching institute was not up to the mark and therefore sought a refund for the remaining period which was further refused by the coaching institute. While Sehgal School of Competition submitted records that showed good results of the institute and alleged that it was wrong to observe that the coaching services are substandard. National Commission stated that fees once paid shall not be refunded is an unfair trade practice. State Consumer Forum, mentioned that not just the balance amount of fee, but also a higher compensation for legal costs as well as the pain that the student had to undertake, could be availed in such cases.
2. National Insurance Company Ltd. Vs. Hindustan Safety Glass Works Ltd. & Anr.:
In this case, the insurance company had refused to compensate the respondent because of damage caused due to heavy rain during a mentioned period. The Insurance Company admittedly denied relief to the insured on the basis of one of the conditions of the policy which stated that National Insurance would not be liable for any loss or damage 12 months after the event of the loss or damage to the insured. The insured filed a complaint with the National Commission under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. The National Commission held that the claim made by the insured is actionable.
3. Indian Medical Association Vs. V.P. Shantha and others:
A writ petition was filed by the Indian Medical Association seeking Supreme Court to declare that the Consumer Protection Act doesn’t apply to the medical profession. Indian Medical Association validated that medical professional are governed by a separate Code of Ethics. Thus, medical negligence can be dealt with by medical experts in their own jurisdiction; the Consumer Protection Act shouldn’t be applied. The Court held that District, State and National Consumer Forums can summon experts in the field of medicine, examine evidence and protect the interest of consumers. Doctors and hospitals who render service without any charge would not fall within the ambit of “service”. In a government hospital, where services are provided free of charge – the Consumer Protection Act would not be applied. However, if customers are being provided for free to the poor, then it shall be covered as a service under the act. In case the insurance policy company pays for the treatment.
4. Manjeet Singh Vs. National Insurance Company Ltd. & Anr:
In this case, the appellant had purchased a second – hand truck under a Hire Purchase agreement. The vehicle was insured by the respondent insurance company. One day when he was driving the truck, a passenger asked him to stop the truck and give him a lift. When he stopped the truck, the passenger brutally assaulted the driver and fled with the vehicle. An FIR was lodged and the respondent finance company was intimated about the theft. However, the insurance company rejected the claim on the ground of breach of terms of the policy. The complainant approached District Consumer Disputes Forum, State Commission and National Commission to compensate him for the loss. All of them had rejected the case. So, finally he approached the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court held that the appellant was not at all in fault. It can be considered as a breach of the policy, but not a fundamental breach to bring the insurance policy to an end and terminate the insurance policy.
5. Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences v Prasanth S. Dhananka & Ors:
This consumer protect act case arises out of a complaint of medical negligence where a 20-year-old engineering student was admitted to the Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS) after he complaint about the acute chest pain. After several tests and x – rays, a tumor was revealed. Though, it could not be diagnosed whether the tumor was malignant or not, therefore, the patient was advised to undergo surgical removal of the same. After the surgery, the patient developed paralysis. There was a complete loss of control over the lower limbs and other related complications also raised leading to urinary tract infections, bedsores, etc. The family of the patient held NIMS and the State of Andhra Pradesh statutorily liable (being a government hospital) liable for this utmost negligence. Family also claimed that no pre-operative tests conducted, no neurosurgeon was present during operation. Consent was only taken for the tumor excision, but the doctors also removed ribs, tumor mass and destroyed blood vessels leading to condition of paralysis. Supreme Court held that a huge negligence was made out on the part of doctors and the hospital. Hence, the court awarded damages worth Rs. 1 crore to compensate present and prospective medical expenses and suffering of life.
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