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Bombay High Court Upholds Judiciary’s Role in Appointing Consumer Forum Members

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Published on: October 22, 2023 at 11:01 IST

The Bombay High Court at Nagpur has declared Rule 6(1) of the Consumer Protection Rules, 2020 as invalid.

This rule prescribed the presence of two members from the State bureaucracy and only one member from the judiciary on the Selection Committee responsible for recommending the appointment of Presidents and member-judges to the State and District Consumer Commissions.

The division bench, composed of Justices Atul Chandurkar and Vrushali Joshi, found that Rule 6(1) diluted the role of the judiciary, creating a “lack of judicial dominance.” This, according to the court, infringed upon the doctrine of separation of powers and encroached on the judicial domain.

In addition to striking down Rule 6(1), the court also invalidated Rule 10(2) to the extent that it prescribed a four-year tenure for members instead of five. Furthermore, the advertisement issued by the Department of Consumer Affairs in Maharashtra for recruitment was found to lack jurisdiction for one of the two written papers.

The quashing of Rule 6(1) led to the annulment of the notifications issued in June that year, which constituted the selection committees.

These developments came about as a result of a series of petitions. One of these was filed by Advocate Dr. Mahendra Bhaskar Limaye, and others were submitted by former member-judges seeking an extension of their tenure.

The court, in June, had declined to grant interim relief to the petitioners, which would have halted the written examination scheduled for over 1,500 aspiring candidates in June.

The petitions challenged various provisions of the Consumer Protection (Qualification for Appointment, Method of Recruitment, Procedure for Appointment, Term of Office, Resignation, and Removal of the President and Members of the State Commission and District Commission) Rules 2020.

The court’s decision, pronounced after 52 days of reserved judgment on September 1, set aside the State Government’s completed selection process and the appointments of 112 Presidents and member-judges for various Consumer Commissions.

The court highlighted the need for the child’s welfare to be the primary consideration in custody matters. It emphasized that, despite parental conflicts, children, especially young ones, should not be deprived of care, affection, love, or protection from either parent.

The court also stressed the importance of visitation rights, which should ensure that the child maintains contact with both parents, even if one parent is granted custody. Additionally, it advocated for “contact rights,” allowing the non-custodial parent to talk to their child briefly every day to maintain their bond.

In conclusion, the court modified the lower court’s order to grant shared custody of the child to both parents. Specific arrangements were made for weekdays, weekends, holidays, and birthdays to ensure the child’s well-being.

Case title: RCS vs. PDS