Background – Demand by Advocates
Advocates have for long been resisting the appearance of non Advocates in Consumer cases.
As a result, the Rules of Allowing Appearance of Agents or representatives or Non-Advocates of Social organizations before the Consumer Forums have been introduced in 2014.
According to the new Consumer Protection (Procedure for Regulation of Allowing Appearance of Agents or representatives or Non-Advocates of Social organizations Before the Consumer Forum) Regulations 2014, any person who wants to appear before the consumer forums needs to be accredited by the Consumer Council.
Obtaining accreditation is an elaborate and lengthy process involving the filing of application, passing exams, undergoing training, followed by a personal interview.
Status of Old Consumer Activists
As a result of this new Regulation, many Consumer Activists like Dr M S Kamat from the Consumer Guidance Society, Dr G N Shenoy, Jehangir Gai and several others, who have been appearing in various cases in different Consumer Forums for the past 15-20 years would now have to undergo this lengthy and cumbersome procedure.
Many of these activists have submitted their applications for accreditation, but their applications are simply pending.
The Maharashtra State Consumer Commission has permitted all such person to appear in ongoing cases and obtain accredited till September 16, 2016, however barring them from filing any fresh cases.
No one will be allowed to appear if he does not obtain accreditation by September 16, 2016.
This Rule questioned in TATA Housing Case
This rule came into question in the case of the TATA housing ‘scam,’ when TATA Housing’s lawyer Pragati Mali objected that a representative of a few parties was a former employee with TATA and also not accredited to be appearing on behalf of the parties.
President of the Consumer Courts Advocate Association and the vice president urged the court to settle the matter. Antubhai Sheth has been disallowed from appearing in the case. He had claimed that he was working in an individual capacity for his wife, daughter-in-law and friends and was only a broker for TATA housing. However, the court had rejected his argument and documents showed that he was a sales associate.
Every time an activist appears, he has to file a declaration that he will not be getting any remuneration for appearing before the forum either directly or indirectly.
Individuals can continue to appear for relatives, neighbours and friends
This is however for those activists appearing on a regular basis, mainly representing consumer organisations, and not for those appearing on an individual case basis on behalf of their relative, neighbours, business associates or friends.
I am giving the link to the full text of the:
Consumer Protection (Procedure for Regulation of Allowing Appearance of Agents or representatives or Non-Advocates of Social organizations Before the Consumer Forum) Regulations 2014.