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Consumer Protection Act UPSC NOTE

 Consumer Protection Act, 1986

  • Consumer Protection Act 1986 was enacted for superior protection of the interest of consumers

  • Consumer Protection Act forced strict liability on a manufacturer in case of the supply of faulty goods by him and strict liability on a service provider in case of shortage in rendering his services. 

  • To safeguard the interests and rights of consumers, quasi-judicial machinery is sought to be set up at the district, state and central levels

  • This Act applies to the whole of India except the state of Jammu and Kashmir. 

  • It applies to all goods, services and inequitable trade practices unless specified and exempted by the Central Government

  • It covers all sectors, private, public or co-operative

  • This Act was replaced by the ‘Consumer Protection Act 2019’ which came into force on 24th July 2020.

Whether doctors be kept out of the Consumer Protection Act?

  • Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ruled that advocates cannot be held liable under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, for deficiency in service. 

  • The Court also indicated that its 1995 decision that held medical professionals accountable under the Act may need to be revisited

  • It suggested that the definition of the term ‘services’ under the Act, which includes the medical sector, be re-examined

  • The issue will be placed before a larger Bench

  • Indian Medical Association v. V.P. Shantha was a landmark case which decided that doctors, medical professionals, and hospitals do come under the Consumer Protection Act as service providers. 

  • Doctors are highly qualified professionals who provide a service to the people. They are highly specialised. 

  • This cannot be equated with any other [profession] because human bodies react differently in different situations

  • A lot of work and research goes into medical practice. Many surgeries are high tech. Patients have to be carefully taken care of.

  • But there are people who misuse the Act. 

  • They don’t want to pay the doctor’s fee or the hospital fee. 

  • They create a ruckus and file a case under the Consumer Protection Act

  • This turns into a harrowing experience for doctors and hospitals. 

  • When things go well, a patient is happy, but when things go wrong, the patient blames the doctor and the hospital. This is dangerous.

  • Doctors order a bunch of medical tests to protect themselves against these complaints. And that increases the cost of procedures

  • Everything has to be on record, so that if there is a dispute, they can prove that they were correct in doing whatever they did

Complexities

  • In some cases, there is gross negligence on the medical professionals’ part

  • In such cases, following the legal process is okay

  • But when doctors who have done a good job and yet a shadow of doubt is cast on them

  • Patients go to court and file a case, then they go to the district forum, then to the State Commission on appeal, and then to the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission

  • It takes 10 harrowing years to prove that you are innocent

  • It’s an experience that really takes the spirit out of doctors. 

  • The doctor is rendering a service. He is highly qualified, just like an advocate. He is ready to help the patient. 

  • But these are the problems — delays and frivolous litigation

  • And there are people who just don’t want to pay doctors, so they come up with some case to cause trouble. It takes a toll on doctors.

  • If doctors’ associations themselves have an authority who can view these cases with expert medical knowledge and act, that would be sensible, instead of a person approaching the court and going the long way

  • The courts cannot decide by themselves anyway; they have to get an expert opinion from a group of doctors

Need for change

  • Action against malpractice is one thing, but to compensate an aggrieved consumer is another.

  • As we have an ombudsman for the insurance, banking, and electricity sectors, maybe we should have an independent authority to deal with these issues as a first step

  • The consumer should always have the option to file a case before the consumer courts. 

  • But as a first redress, we could have a body where the matter could be taken to first. 

  • Similarly, we have the option of mediation under the Consumer Protection Act

  • As of now, medical negligence is not covered under it

  • What is needed is a very strong regulatory authority which can monitor medical professionals’ activity, but they should also have powers to control what is happening.

  • There is medical indemnity insurance that a lot of doctors subscribe to in order to be safe if they get into any problem

  • But it is a difficult process if they have to go to court regardless.



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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Consumer Protection Act UPSC NOTE
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