Hyderabad: Consumer Dispute Forum has slapped a fine of Rs 1,50,000 on Star Bazar Trent Hypermarket, Banjara Hills, for charging money from the customers for plastic carry bags under the false pretext of protecting the environment and pay Rs 15,000 for the compensation to the customer for causing inconvenience and mental agony.

The Forum was hearing a petition by Yerramalla Sanjay, a resident of Dilsukhnagar, who had purchased food items on May 31, 2019, from the star Bazar Trent Hypermarket, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad. Star Bazar Trent Hypermarket had charged Rs. six for providing plastic carry bag.

After perusal of evidence and hearing the arguments, the Forum asked the Star Bazar to deposit Rs.1,00,000 into the Telangana State CM relief fund for the popular scheme "Haritha Haram". It also asked the store to deposit Rs.50,000 into a consumer welfare fund for consumer education in Telangana.

After issuing legal notice on May 31, 2019, the complainant approached the forum for redressal on the ground of unfair trade practice.

Star Bazar –Trent Hypermarket contended in the forum that the complainant filed the complaint just to extort money. "In order to promote or encourage the usage /promotion of plastic carry bags, but however in the interest and convenience of its customers the same are kept for sale," said the store.

The store added that there is no unfair trade practice on their behalf and prayed to dismiss the complaint.

After hearing the arguments, the forum said: "Rule 15 of the plastic waste management Rules 2016, under clause (1), the shopkeepers shall register and pay the requisite amount of Rs.48,000/ every year to the concerned local body after registering with the local bodies. The concerned local bodies may prescribe higher plastic management fees depending upon the sale capacity. The registered shopkeepers shall display at prominent places that the plastic carry bags are given on payment."

The Forum added as per clause (2) Rule 15 only the registered shop keepers shall be eligible to provide plastic carry bags for dispensing the commodities. Clause (3) of Rule 15 further says that the local body shall utilize the amount paid by the customers for the carry bags exclusively for the sustainability of the waste management system within their jurisdiction.

"In this case, the opposite party did not file any proof to show that they registered with the concerned local body by paying the requisite amount as above depending on the sale capacity. In the absence of any such proof, we are under the considered view that the opposite parties have not paid the requisite amount payable for registration and for selling of plastic carry bags to the consumers. That the opposite party denied the claim of the complainant on technical grounds and attributed ill intentions to the complainant," said the Forum.

The complainant categorically stated that as a respectable citizen he highlighted the issue and reiterated that the opposite party collected the amount under the guise of avoiding plastic to safeguard the environment.

The Forum noted that the opposite party as well other merchants, who collect huge amounts under the guise of avoiding plastic and protecting the environment, are utilizing the amount for their own benefit. They are not spending such an amount which was collected so, for the benefit of increasing greenery or for the protection of the environment. In order to utilize such amounts so collected from the consumers for the benefit of the environment, we are inclined to award punitive damages, it said.

The Forum also directed the store to refund Rs. 6 with an interest of 9% from the date of the invoice which is from May 31, 2019, till realization, pay a compensation of Rs.10,000 for the inconvenience and mental agony caused to the complainant and pay Rs.5000 towards costs of litigation. The Court also states that time for compliance is 45 days (the forum order came on December 23, 2020) from the date of receipt of this order in default the opposite parties will have to pay further compensation of Rs.40,000 to the complainant.

Sumit Kumar Jha

Sumit Kumar Jha is currently a multimedia journalist with Newsmeter. An alumnus of Hyderabad Central University and Amity University, he has interned with The New Indian Express and CGNet Swara. Sumit has also worked with video production houses in Mumbai as an assistant director in shows like 21 Sarfrosh for Discovery Jeet. He is specialised in Video Production. He was also the contributor at PARI network. Hailing from rural Bihar has spent his childhood shifting from places and people. Growing up he felt the need to document the lives and dreams of rural India. A lover of visual storytelling goes around the cities to search for Stories. He primarily reports on civic, human interest and data stories.

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