Entrepreneurs Becoming Labourers, As Kashmir Awaits Consumer Court

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Since the abrogation of Article 370, the consumer court in Kashmir has remained shut, thus putting thousands of litigants in uncertainty.

By Umer Ahmad

THE recent Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) report censuring government for the pending 2014 flood relief in Kashmir reminded Tanveer Ahmad his own battle with the Consumer Court consumed by the 2019 summer shift along with the hundreds of cases. 

“I was so near yet so far,” Tanveer sums up his struggle with his pending flood case misplaced two years ago.

After losing his home in the devastating fall of 2014, Tanveer was banking on his insurance policy for the full recovery of losses suffered in the massive floods.

A resident of Hygam in north Kashmir’s Sopore town, Tanveer approached his insurer—HDFC Urbo—in post-flood phase.

But when his claim wasn’t entertained, he decided to move to the Consumer Court for justice.

“My case was on its final stage,” Tanveer says. “All the witnesses were heard in the court and the final decision was around the corner when New Delhi abrogated Article 370 in August 2019.”

In the ensuring communication blockade spanning months, Tanveer lost the track of his case he was rigorously pursuing for half a decade.

“I don’t know what is going to happen now,” the distraught Kashmiri man says.

“I believe the abrogation of J&K’s special status only made us backwards, rather than the so-called prosperous in the make-believe development era. Our own vibrant bodies became defunct and the cases instantly lost their address.”

But Tanveer hasn’t been suffering alone since the abrogation of J&K’s special status — when Consumer Court of Kashmir became shut and put thousands of litigants in uncertainty.

The subsequent Reorganization Act in October 2019 nullified many state laws and replaced them with the central laws.

Among others, J&K Consumer Protection Act 1987 was replaced by the Central Consumer Protection Act 1986. After an amendment in 2019, the Act became Central Consumer Protection Act 2019.

Under the amendment, new Commission was to be set up in J&K.

A committee headed by the J&K High Court Judge was formulated to set up the commission.

But the committee constituted in October 2020 is yet to reconstitute the commission, thus leaving hundreds of litigants in lurch. Among them is Mohammad Maqbool Tambay.

In 2015, Maqbool lost his shop in a fire turning his world upside down.

“After that fire incident, I was hopeful to restart business with my insurance policy,” he says.

“But when I made the claim, I was denied full insurance payment. The company was not even ready to provide me 10 per cent of the losses I had suffered in the fire.”

To seek justice, Maqbool took his case to the Consumer Court. But till date, the fate of his case remains unknown due to the changed equations on the ground.

With the result, the yesterday’s entrepreneur has now become a labourer.

“I work as a daily worker in construction sites now,” Maqbool says.

“I had borrowed money from the bank to set up my shop. But after the incident and subsequent denial of insurance claim, I had to sell land to pay off the credit and to cope up with other losses.”

Advocate Sujood, a consumer lawyer, told Kashmir Observer that there’re hundreds of cases, majority of them related to the pending flood relief, in the consumer court which were at the final stage.

“But since 2019, when the J&K Consumer Protection Act was repealed and the commission was closed, there is uncertainty among clients now,” the lawyer said.

“People fear that their cases will be lost in the courtroom dust now.”

On his part, Tanveer—after losing track of his case—was forced to sell his land to rebuild his house, so that his family doesn’t have to sleep under the open sky.

“After suffering for so many years and spending so much money from the pockets, we have no assurance, if our cases will be ever heard in the court again or not,” Tanveer says.

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