The Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court on 14th September 2021, set aside provisions of the Consumer Protection Rules, 2020 governing appointment of the President and other members of State and District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions.
In the present case, below-mentioned Rules were contended:
Rule 3(2) – Mandates a minimum experience of 20 years for appointment to the office of President and other members of State Commission.
Rule 4(2)(c) – Mandates a minimum experience of 15 years for appointment to the office of the President and other members of District Commission.
Rule 6(9) – Provided for the selection committee to determine its procedure for making its recommendations, keeping in view the requirement of the Commission.
The Bench, constituting of Justice SB Shukre and AS Kilor, observed that these three provisions violated Article 14 of the Constitution, and thus struck them down.
The judgement was delivered in relation to two petitions (a public interest litigation by Vijaykumar Dighe, and a writ petition filed by Dr. Mahendra Limaye) that challenged the provisions of the Consumer Protection Rules, 2020.
The petitioners were aggrieved by an advertisement issued on February 2, 2021, for the posts of President and members of District and State Commissions of Maharashtra and prayed for the notice to be quashed and set aside.
The vacancy notices were henceforth set aside by the Bench. Additionally, the process of selection which had been initiated pursuant to such notice was also cancelled by the Court.
The order read: “Fresh process of selection of members of the State Commission, President and the members of the District Commission be initiated in accordance with the amended Rules and completed at the earliest.” The Bench also reiterated the observation of two Supreme Court judgements, that of Madras Bar Association vs Union of India and State of Uttar Pradesh and others vs. All U.P. Consumer Protection Bar Association, to note that all judicial offices are essentially a public trust and similarly only persons having high integrity and skill are expected to occupy such offices.
Remarking that it’s effect would be nationwide, the Union pleaded for the judgement to be kept on hold for a four-week period.
This was opposed by Dr. Mahendra Limaye’s representative, Advocate Tushar Mandlekar on the grounds that during such period, the State may issue appointment orders in favour of the candidates already selected for the vacancies.
The Court, however, granted the Centre a two-week period suspension, whilst clarifying that no appointment orders should be issued in that time frame