Explained- Consumer Forum’s Authority to Order Site Inspections by an Advocate Commissioner


Consumer Forums are established to protect the rights and interests of consumers. When a consumer files a complaint, the Forum initiates a thorough investigation to determine whether any consumer rights have been violated. In cases involving property, goods, or service verification, the Forum possesses the authority to direct a site inspection conducted by an Advocate Commissioner.

Advocate Commissioners play a pivotal role in the resolution of consumer disputes, especially in cases involving property disputes or the verification of goods and services. They act as impartial intermediaries responsible for collecting information, examining evidence, and producing factual reports, which are then submitted to the Court. This mechanism is crucial in ensuring a fair and just resolution of consumer complaints.

The Consumer Forum Act has incorporated the concept of the Advocate Commissioner, a practice borrowed from the Code of Civil Procedure 1908. Under this provision, an advocate commissioner is appointed to conduct site inspections of properties, observe and verify relevant details, and subsequently compile a comprehensive report for submission to the Court. While this mechanism is intended to facilitate the judicial process, it inadvertently places a significant financial burden on consumers. This financial strain can often lead consumers to retreat from  seeking justice, resulting in an impediment to the pursuit of fair and efficient legal remedies.

Incorporating an Advocate Commissioner in site inspections ensures impartiality and precision. These professionals are independent legal experts, guaranteeing an unbiased assessment of the situation. Their objective findings are indispensable in the just adjudication of consumer complaints.

Section 38(9)(e) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, which aligns with Section 13(4)(v) of the Old Act 1986, grants Consumer Forums a jurisdiction akin to that of civil courts, pursuant to the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. Specifically, this provision empowers them to issue commissions for witness testimonies and document examination. However, conspicuously absent from the legislation is any explicit  mention of Consumer Forums’ authority to mandate site inspections or scientific investigations. This prevailing ambiguity has given rise to diverse interpretations by different High Courts, consequently resulting in a discord of judicial decisions on this pertinent issue.

Before delving into the details of this issue, it is crucial to emphasize the importance of expert opinions in consumer disputes, especially when identifying faults that require technical analysis. According to Article 38(2) (c) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, parties can request the District Commission to conduct an analysis and testing of alleged defective goods, sending them to an approved laboratory recognized by central or state authorities.

Whether on-site inspections essential?

This is an issue that has posed challenges for advocates, as a substantial amount of evidence is often readily available in the case records. Consequently, it raises the question of whether it is necessary to appoint an Advocate Commissioner, thereby imposing additional financial burdens on our clients.

Undisputedly, the Consumer Forum’s authority to order site inspections conducted by an Advocate Commissioner is a vital element in ensuring the equitable and effective resolution of consumer disputes. This power plays a pivotal role in collecting impartial and accurate evidence, enabling the Forum to deliver justice to consumers.

While Advocate Commissioners play a pivotal role in achieving a fair resolution, it  is important to acknowledge the associated challenges. The costs linked to engaging an Advocate Commissioner, including their fees, travel-related expenses, and other incidental costs, can be substantial.

Problems faced by the Consumers:-

  • Financial Burden

To address this issue, it is imperative to adopt a balanced approach. Consumer Forums, in collaboration with legal authorities, should explore methods to alleviate the financial strain on consumers. Potential solutions may encompass reviewing the fees charged by Advocate Commissioners, providing financial assistance to economically disadvantaged consumers, or streamlining the procedures involved in Advocate Commissioner appointments.

Despite their importance, the utilization of Advocate Commissioners places a notable financial burden on consumers. The costs associated with engaging an Advocate Commissioner, including their fees, travel expenses, and other incidental expenses can accumulate to a significant amount. This financial burden often proves to be overwhelming for many consumers, especially those with limited financial means. Consequently, it becomes a deterrent that obstructs their pursuit of justice.

  • The Deterrent Effect

The financial constraints imposed by the Advocate Commissioner system can have a deterrent effect on consumers who might otherwise seek legal remedies for their grievances. When consumers are already grappling with the adverse consequences of the faulty product or service they received, the additional  financial  pressure  associated with Advocate Commissioners can prove to be insurmountable. As a result, consumers may be forced to take a step back from pursuing their cases, compromising the justice they rightfully deserve.

  • Seeking Solutions

In light of the unintended financial burden that Advocate Commissioners impose on consumers, it is imperative for lawmakers and legal authorities to reevaluate this system. A more consumer- friendly approach should be adopted to ensure that access to justice remains unhindered. This could include exploring options such as reducing the fees charged by Advocate Commissioners, providing financial assistance to indigent consumers, or simplifying the procedures involved in appointing Advocate Commissioners.

The Consumer Forum Act’s use of Advocate Commissioners as a means of gathering evidence and ensuring fair dispute resolution is commendable. However, the financial strain it imposes on consumers should not be underestimated. It inadvertently serves as a deterrent, preventing many consumers from pursuing the justice they deserve. In the pursuit of a fair and efficient legal system, it is crucial to find ways to alleviate this financial burden and ensure that access to justice is not contingent on one’s financial means.

Whether Consumer Courts have the authority to appoint an Advocate Commissioner?

While parties are free to present expert evidence through affidavits, the question remains whether Consumer Courts have the authority to appoint an Advocate Commissioner to investigate product liability claims.

In disputes concerning property ownership, determining rightful ownership is a crucial aspect of the legal process. This determination often relies on a combination of oral evidence, documentation, and affidavits. In some cases, the appointment of an Advocate Commissioner for a local inspection may seem unnecessary. This article delves into the various methods of proving facts and presenting circumstantial evidence in court, highlighting the potential drawbacks of appointing Advocate commissioners.

Property disputes can be complex and emotionally charged, making it essential to establish ownership with precision. To this end, parties involved in such disputes often rely on a range of evidence types. Oral testimonies, written documentation, and sworn affidavits are commonly employed to build a case and demonstrate ownership. When these evidentiary tools are wielded effectively, they can make the appointment of an Advocate Commissioner for a local inspection superfluous.

One of the primary reasons for not appointing an Advocate Commissioner in some cases is the availability of alternative methods to establish ownership. Oral evidence, consisting of testimonies from witnesses and parties involved, can provide valuable insights into the history and circumstances surrounding a  property.  Additionally, written documentation, such as deeds, contracts, and property records, can serve as concrete proof of ownership. When coupled with affidavits sworn under oath, these documents carry substantial weight incourt.

However, it is crucial to note that relying solely on oral evidence,  documentation, and affidavits may not always be sufficient, especially when disputes are contentious or when parties contest the veracity of the presented evidence. In such situations, the appointment of an Advocate Commissioner for a local inspection may become a necessary step to impartially evaluate the property and its claims. This ensures transparency and fairness in the dispute resolution process.

Nonetheless, Advocate commissioners, while serving an important role in property disputes, are not immune to potential biases and conflicts of interest. It is not uncommon for Advocate commissioners to have pre-existing relationships or affiliations with one of the parties involved in the dispute. Such relationships can lead to perceptions of bias, which may compromise the integrity of the proceedings.

When an Advocate commissioner is perceived as being partial or favoring one party due to personal connections, it can result in an unjust outcome for the other party. This can erode trust in the legal system and undermine the pursuit of justice.

Property disputes often hinge on the effective presentation of evidence, including oral testimony, documentation, and affidavits. While these tools can provide substantial support for a party’s claim, the appointment of an Advocate commissioner for a local inspection may still be necessary in some cases to ensure impartiality and transparency. However, it is imperative that Advocate commissioners remain free from biases and conflicts of interest to maintain the integrity of the dispute resolution process. Striking the right balance between these methods of evidence presentation is essential to achieving a fair and just resolution in property disputes.

In the case of KMA Wahab & Others v. Eswaran & Others (2008), the court ruled that appointing an advisory commissioner to investigate property ownership issues is inappropriate; as such matters should be evaluated through the framing and  assessment of evidence. A similar stance was taken in M/s. Benz Automobile Private Limited Company v. Mohanasundaram (2003), where the court held that a commissioner’s appointment cannot determine property ownership, as disputes can only be resolved based on oral statements and provided documents.

In Rajendran v. Lilly Ammal aka Nelli Ammal (1998), it was ruled that an attorney- commissioner could not be appointed to determine property ownership. A similar decision was reached in Kuttiyappan, D. v.  Meenakshiammal Polytechnic Unit of M/s. Meenakshiammal Trust (2005), where the court held that defendants cannot demand the appointment of an attorney-commissioner to prove their possession, as such appointments cannot establish ownership or enjoyment of property. A similar issue was addressed in Minor Amid Stanly & Others v. Lakshmiammal & Others (2009), where it was held that commissioners cannot verify possession facts, which must be proven through oral and documentary evidence.

In Latchan v. Ram Krishna, Smt. Mandera v. Schindra Chandra, Vanamoorthi Pillai Veerabhadran Pillai v. Ayyamperumal Pillai Bhagavathy Pillai Air 1955 Nuc 1187 (Tra- Co) and Seetharamappa v. Appaiah in support of the contention that in case of non- compliance   with   the   mandatory    provisions    of Rule    18     the appointment     of the local commissioner is without jurisdiction and   the report  resulting  from his  inspection cannot be read as evidence. Therefore,     it     is   submitted    that    the order appointing the local commissioner whose reports are the subject of controversy could not have been made without giving a reasonable opportunity to the appellants to raise their objections and adduce evidence. We are unable to agree with these contentions.

The Role of an Advocate commissioner in Land Dispute Cases

Advocate commissioners are appointed to inspect physical assets and provide accurate details of the situation. While Consumer Courts have the power to appoint an Advocate Commissioner for inspections, such appointments are typically unnecessary for issues related to land measurements or similar matters. In such cases, all relevant photos and evidence concerning the land are readily available as per the court’s demands. However, for non-factual disputes, the Consumer Court can appoint an Advocate commissioner to gather additional information.

In a recent legal case, Sarala Jain and others v. Sangu Gangadhar, the Honorable Judge M. Satyanarayana Murthy, J, delivered a significant judgment that sheds light on the appointment of advocate commissioners in land dispute matters. This judgment is in line with the precedent set by the Supreme Court in the case of Mohd. Mehtab Khan (2013 (3) ALD 64 (SC) = 2013 (3) ALT 31.1 (DN SC)).

The central issue addressed in this case was the appointment of an advocate commissioner by the trial court to demarcate scheduled property and fix boundary stones on the respondent’s property. Judge M. Satyanarayana Murthy ruled that such an appointment effectively equated to granting a pre-trial decree because it directly fulfilled a portion of the relief sought in the lawsuit. Consequently, the court determined that appointing a commissioner for this specific purpose was not permissible.

The judgment also laid down essential considerations for courts when contemplating the appointment of an advocate commissioner in land dispute cases:

  1. Total Pleadings of Both Parties: – The court must carefully review and consider all the pleadings submitted by both parties involved in the dispute. This includes a comprehensive examination of the claims, counterclaims, and defenses put forth by each side.
  1. Relief Claimed in the Suit: – The relief sought by the plaintiff in the lawsuit should be closely examined. It is crucial to ensure that appointing an advocate commissioner does not prematurely grant any part of the relief claimed.
  1. Preventing Pre-trial Decrees: – Courts should be cautious to avoid situations where the appointment of an advocate commissioner at an interlocutory stage effectively amounts to granting a pre-trial decree. Such premature decisions can compromise the fairness and integrity of the legal process.
  1. Resolution of the Real Controversy: – Finally, the appointment of an advocate commissioner should always serve the purpose of resolving the genuine dispute between the parties. It should contribute to a fair and just determination of the issues at hand.

Also Read

The case of Sarala Jain and others v. Sangu Gangadhar highlights the importance of a judicious approach when appointing advocate commissioners in land dispute cases. The judgment emphasizes the need for courts to carefully assess the pleadings, relief sought, and the potential implications of such appointments on the overall legal proceedings. By adhering to these principles, the legal system can ensure the equitable resolution of land disputes and maintain the integrity of the judicial process.


In conclusion, the matter of whether Consumer Commissions possess the legal authority to mandate site inspections remains a contentious issue in the realm of consumer dispute resolution. The lack of a definitive and comprehensive framework has led to a situation where different committees and adjudicators must rely on disparate decisions handed down by various High Courts as their guiding principles. This uncertainty within the legal landscape has given rise to a multifaceted debate that continues to perplex both legal practitioners and consumers alike.

It is essential to acknowledge that consumer disputes can encompass a wide spectrum of complexities, some of which inherently demand a deeper level of investigation and expert analysis. In such cases, site inspections can prove invaluable in arriving at a fair and just resolution. However, without clear and unambiguous regulations delineating the circumstances under which such inspections are permissible and under what conditions they can be ordered, the question of their legitimacy remains open-ended.

Presently, the predominant approach appears to be the acceptance of expert opinions submitted through affidavits as an alternative to on-site inspections. This interim solution allows parties involved in consumer disputes to present their case with a degree of professionalism and credibility, all while circumventing potential objections regarding site inspections. Nonetheless, this work around does not resolve the underlying issue of the absence of concrete regulatory guidance in this matter.

To establish a more cohesive and effective framework for consumer dispute resolution, it may be incumbent upon legislative bodies to address this ambiguity definitively. Legislative clarification can serve as a means to provide uniformity and consistency in the application of consumer protection laws across the country. Such clarity will not only assist Consumer Commissions in rendering fair and informed judgments but also contribute to the overall transparency and integrity of the consumer protection system.

In summary, the question of whether Consumer Commissions have the authority to order site inspections remains a contentious and unsettled matter, characterized by reliance on inconsistent judicial decisions. The need for legislative intervention to provide clear guidelines on this issue is evident. Until such time, the current practice of utilizing expert opinions through affidavits stands as a practical, though imperfect, method of addressing the investigative needs of consumer disputes. The resolution of this issue holds the potential to enhance the efficacy and fairness of consumer dispute resolution mechanisms and should thus be pursued with diligence and foresight.


Vanshika Singh


Allahabad High Court Lucknow Bench Lucknow

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