Consumer Panel rejects Student’s plea Claiming Lack of Citations in Newspaper Editorial

 Editorials generally address the thought process and wisdom of readers in general and mentioning details of citations will affect the beauty of their presentation, a Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission observed while rejecting the plea of a law student against a leading daily.

Cautioning the student over the “lack of merit” in his plea, the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, South Mumbai, in its order of February 20, ruled that one cannot hide frivolous complaints in the garb of “in the interest of public litigation”.

The student had approached the commission against the publication alleging that the editorial carried by the newspaper did not cite the particular case law while referring to a Supreme Court judgement in brief.

The student contended that he filed the complaint on the ground that he is a buyer of the newspaper and, hence, a consumer. He also claimed the issue involved is in the interest of a large number of consumers.

He said, as a consumer and citizen of India, it was his right to know the references when the newspaper cites something in the name of the apex court just as a consumer is entitled to know the ingredients of a product.

“Editorial articles generally address the thought process and wisdom of readers in general. Mentioning of the Supreme Court is a reference to the subject in general. Mentioning details of citations in editorial is not a common practice as it will affect the beauty of presentation of the article as well as flow of thoughts of a reader,” the commission said in its order.

Merely not mentioning the name of a particular case cannot be a consumer complaint “construed as insufficient information and, therefore, cannot be considered as deficiency of a service”, the commission’s order further said.

In his written arguments, the complaint had also submitted that the issue involved is in the interest of a large number of consumers and not just the individual party to this complaint.

However, the commission said the statement reflects the misunderstanding of the complainant about the issue raised by him.

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“It is also an indicator of the complainant’s confusion about what exactly he wishes to pray before the commission. Thus, we do not agree with the contention made by the complainant regarding deficiency of service in the said issue of editorial article. In fact, it is frivolous in nature,” the commission said.

Merely a referral comment, content or quote in a newspaper cannot be the subject matter of consumer deficiency particularly when there is no targeted customer, the commission observed.

It is noticed that the complainant has a curiosity about the outcome of the issue due to his academic background, but this cannot be an excuse to allow and entertain such complaints under Consumer Protection Act 2019 since this has cost to state as well as respondents, the commission noted.

“Considering complainant’s age and educational background he is cautioned to refrain from filing frivolous complaints,” the commission said.

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