Consumer courts not fully functional owing to lack of facilities, awareness

Published March 11, 2019
In the absence of consumer councils, the establishment of consumer courts are termed a job half done. — AFP/File
In the absence of consumer councils, the establishment of consumer courts are termed a job half done. — AFP/File

KARACHI: The newly established consumer courts across the province have yet to become fully functional due to non-availability of required facilities as well as lack of awareness about their existence, it emerged on Sunday.

Recently, the provincial government set up 29 consumer courts at the district level as required under Section 27(1) of the Sindh Consumer Protection Act, 2014.

Sindh High Court Chief Justice Ahmed Ali M Shaikh appointed civil judges and judicial magistrates as presiding officers of the new special courts in the province.

The CJ also directed all the district judges to accommodate and arrange infrastructure and staffs for the time being for smooth functioning of these courts.

In the absence of consumer councils, the establishment of consumer courts termed a job half done

Six consumer courts have been set up in Karachi’s as many districts — East, West, Central, South, Korangi and Malir — since the city had the largest consumer base and head offices of local as well as multinational companies and firm.

Easy litigation

“Filing a case in a consumer court is as simple as just submitting an application against a shopkeeper, or a retailer, etc,” said Karachi Bar Association’s Vice President Advocate Abid Feroze. “Although, majority of the people think that starting a litigation means spending hundreds of thousands in professional fee for lawyers, filing a case does not even require the complainant to engage a lawyer,” he told Dawn.

“There is no court fee charged while the complainant can plead the case in person, if he/she chose so,” he added.

However, judicial and prosecution sources told Dawn that the consumer courts in Karachi’s East, West, Central and Korangi districts were yet to be fully functional due to lack of proper facilities, staff, infrastructure, etc.

The sources said that there were no courtrooms for the judges of the consumer courts except the one in South district where the consumer court had been functioning in a proper, well-furnished courtroom with staff and other infrastructure facilities.

In East district, the judge of the consumer court, Civil Judge and Judicial Magistrate Javed Ahmed Korejo, got no courtroom.

“The judge is temporarily sharing the chamber of another civil judge and judicial magistrate,” a KBA representative said.

In Korangi, the consumer court had been temporarily set up in an already existing courtroom.

“Two new courtrooms are being constructed separately to accommodate the consumer courts in East and Korangi districts. Once the new courtrooms are fully furnished, both the consumer courts would be shifted there on a permanent basis,” said a staffer.

In Central, the consumer court was set up in a room located on the third floor. The courtroom lacked proper furniture and other infrastructure facilities and the court remained “almost dysfunctional because of lack of infrastructure”, a frustrated staffer said.

Courts in Karachi understaffed

The judicial sources said that the consumer courts in Karachi were understaffed, as one clerk, one court reader and one naib qasid each had been provided.

No bailiff, who plays an important role in communication between courts and contesting parties, has been assigned to some courts, said a staffer.

This is in contrast with the fact that usually the court of a civil judge and judicial magistrate is provided with two clerks, a reader, two naib qasids and a bailiff.

Official statistics suggested that only a few cases had been filed since the courts became somehow functional after appointments of judges in mid-January.

Figures showed that in Karachi, only eight cases had so far been filed in two consumer courts under the Sindh Consumer Protection Act, 2014. District-East consumer court has five cases pending and District-South has three cases pending. All the cases are in their initial stage.

No case filed in 21 districts

Not a single case was filed in the consumer courts of districts West, Central, Korangi and Malir.

In other courts of Sindh, the Dadu consumer court has two cases; Ghotki (one case), Hyderabad (two cases), Mirpurkhas (two cases) and Tando Muhammad Khan (one case).

No case has been filed in the consumer courts of 17 other districts —Badin, Jacobabad, Jamshoro, Khairpur, Qambar-Shahdadkot, Kashmore-Kandhkot, Larkana, Matiyari, Naushero Feroze, Shaheed Benazirabad, Sanghar, Shikarpur, Sukkur, Tando Allayhar, Tharparkar-Mithi, Thatta and Umerkot.

Govt yet to set up consumer councils

While the Pakistan Peoples Party-led provincial government passed the pro-consumer law to protect their rights, it kept dragging its feet for four years to set up the consumer courts under one pretext or so until the Sindh High Court kept issuing directives in this regard during rounds of hearings on a constitutional petition.

Advocate Tariq Mansoor, who had had approached the court against non-implementation of the Sindh Consumers Protection Act, 2014, termed the establishment of the consumer courts a job half done.

“The government has finally set up consumer courts, but it is still required to set up consumer councils at the district level as well, which are supposed to create awareness among the masses on the consumers’ rights and availability of the judicial forum to seek remedies.”

Published in Dawn, March 11th, 2019



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