Information Commission is also a service provider under Consumer Protection Act
In perhaps the first incident of its kind, a State Information Commission has come under the hammer of a consumer forum. The District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Chennai, (South) has held the Public Information Officer of the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission liable for “deficiency of service” and has ordered the Public Information Officer to pay compensation of Rs. 5,000 to an applicant.
The District Forum, comprising its President V. Gopal and Member L. Deenadayalan referred to the decisions of the Supreme Court and the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission. The forum held that “the complainant is the consumer and the opposite party (Information Commission) is a service provider. The Forum further observed: “There is no power given to appellate authorities to order compensation to the applicant. When the relief which could be obtained by the consumer under the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) as an additional remedy and when such remedy could not be granted by any other court or forum, then, naturally, the consumer can approach only the consumer forum and this view is clear from Section 3 of the CPA, 1986.
In the case, when an applicant did not get information within 30 days, he filed a complaint seeking payment of Rs. 50,000 as compensation for mental agony and for deficiency in service to the forum. The argument of the State Information Commission that its functioning was free of charge and such functioning would not constitute a ‘service’ as defined in the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, was not accepted.
The Forum directed payment of compensation of Rs. 5,000 to the complainant within six weeks, failing which an interest at the rate of 9 per cent per annum would be charged till the date of payment.