Consumer body cries foul over removal of healthcare from Bill

DNA, July 30, 2019

The Mumbai Grahak Panchayat (MGP), a leading consumer rights body in the city on Monday issued a statement criticising the Consumer Protection Bill, 2019 that is likely to be introduced in the Parliament today.

Calling it akin to the RTI Amendment Bill that diluted the RTI Act, the consumer rights body said that the new consumer bill is similar. The big concerns cited by the body are removal of the healthcare section, that ensured that there are women members at the district forums, state commission and national commission and the basis of pecuniary jurisdiction.

The rights body says that the ‘healthcare’ has been removed at the behest of the medical lobby and will lead to doctors and hospitals being negligent in services to go scot free. The present Act did not have ‘healthcare’ mentioned categorically, but various court judgements ensured that it was considered as a service. The Bill too mentioned healthcare as service, which had reassured activist but now it being removed will lead to it being out of scope of the commission. Poor people will now have to run to courts with extra costs, they said.

“The other problem is with removal of women members. In most cases it is the women who are at the forefront when it comes to consumer issues. Hence the Act mandated that one women member should be the part of the category,” said advocate Shirish Deshpande, chairman of MGP.

The Panchayat, however, welcomed the decision of increasing the pecuniary jurisdiction of the forums. It proposes to increase the district forum’s pecuniary jurisdictiion from up to Rs 20 lakhs to Rs 1 crore, state commission’s from Rs 20 lakh to Rs 1 crore to Rs 1 crore to Rs 10 crore and national commission’s from Rs 1 crore and above to Rs 10 crore and above.

Despande further added, “The government will have to increase number of courts as cases may increase four fold. However, they should keep value of the claim and not value of goods or service paid to decide the pecuniary jurisdiction. The latter will always force a person to go to a higher body when it can be resolved at a lower forum,” said Deshpande.

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