Prakash Sheth believes that the Mahindra two-wheeler dealer harassed him because he refused to pay an extra amount to be given to an RTO officer for registration of the scooter he bought. So, he decided to file a consumer complaint. "It was the best remedy available to me," says Sheth.
One would have thought that this diamond merchant and jewellery manufacturer should not have had a problem paying a little bribe. But the 48-year-old father of two teenage girls and a six-year-old boy is a Jain for whom purity is a way of life.
He has fought such wrong-doing before and won. Many of the matters were fought in various consumer courts in Mumbai and in Gujarat for friends and relatives. He even filed four public interest litigations in the Bombay high court and won all of them; a fifth is still in court.
"The consumer Protection Act is one of the best laws that Parliament has given us as you can file and fight the case on your own without engaging a lawyer," says Sheth, who has studied up to class XII in science. "Wrong-doing by shopkeepers and service providers is rampant. They don't even spare police officers and government servants."
He is not satisfied with the order of the consumer panel, saying he spent a lot more and had to visit the court more than 15 times. "In addition to the money that I spent, it involved a lot of time. The Supreme Court has time and again given practical directions on costs to be paid to litigants but consumer court judges have yet to show the necessary boldness on this count."
"If a big shopkeeper believes he can get away by paying just Rs15,000 why would he care about proper service to customers. Businesses know that people don't have the time or the money to challenge them. I had demanded Rs60,000 but got just Rs15,000. Why don't they hit the wrong-doer hard so he does not dream of doing such mischief again?" says Sheth.
He felt that most of the courts did not fulfill the dictum that the law should act as a deterrent. But he pointed out that the courts in Gujarat were more consumer friendly and the judges there did not hesitate to award heavy penalties.