The administrative shambles of the trial courts in Delhi is now an oft-discussed issue. Anybody who has practiced in the lower courts usually has a story or two to narrate on the quality of infrastructure, justice dispensation etc. However, the discourse over improving the conditions in lower courts ought not to be limited to just the trial courts, is what a recent experience taught me..I had the opportunity to visit the District Consumer Forum (West) situated at Janakpuri recently. While admittedly the prospect of spending an entire day, without any work at the forum did not entice me, I went along with an insistent lawyer friend, simply for the reason that it would give me a chance to explore a new judicial body and observe the manner in which judicial proceedings were conducted. After spending two hours on the road and another thirty minutes figuring out the exact location of the tribunal, we made it on time and entered the Court before the Bench had assembled..Before I elaborate more on the conduct of proceedings, discussing the infrastructure and location of the forum is necessary. The District Forum at Janakpuri is situated inside the Community Centre which is essentially a cluster of shops and establishments and includes everything from a sweetmeat seller to an insurance broker..The Court that is situated on the first floor of one of the buildings that make up the Community Centre, resembles a dilapidated government office. The stairway leading up to the floor, is predictably drenched with paan stains. The staircase opens up to the Court on the left and the corridor is lined up with chairs, which doubles up as a waiting area. I saw a host of people who were waiting to appear in person and very few lawyers; which is a departure from the sights that await me at the tribunals I have visited so far..The Court itself has a shelf for books and I see plenty of dog-eared copies of the Consumer Protection Act, which is the Bible for this forum. Rows of chairs, creaky windows and one air conditioner complete the courtroom. The Bench headed by R.S. Bangri and Urmila Gupta assembles by 11.15 am and begins hearing litigants over disputes ranging from a broken phone, faulty water pipes, damaged products, and so on..Most of these cases are presented by parties appearing in person and explaining their case to the judge. The striking feature is that the proceedings are reminiscent of a dialogue/negotiation between two parties and do not come across as a formal Q&A session between the lawyer and the judge..The Bench leans (sometimes, more than necessary) towards a settlement of disputes at the admission hearing itself. In one instance judge Bangri stated in chaste Hindi, that unless the litigant did not adduce proof to show that he had tried all methods for reaching out to the phone company and settling the case out of court, the case could not be entertained any further..One particular case grabs my attention when a lawyer (among the few advocates that I spotted) appearing for a major telecom company, challenged the maintainability of a consumer dispute and stated that as per the provisions of the Telegraph Act and also the contractual terms between the parties, the disputes had to be settled through arbitration..She also mentioned judgments of the Supreme Court over the issue, which would take away the jurisdiction of the consumer forum in such cases..However, judge Bangri seemed to be in no mood to entertain these submissions when he dismissively pointed to the Apex Court’s judgments and said,.‘All this does not apply to me. You are in my Court, I will follow the Rules of this Court. We have heard you enough and if you wish to file a reply to the dispute, file it.’.Yet another interesting aspect that I noticed was that the orders in each case were narrated by the Judge with heavy interjection by the parties and lawyers, to the stenographer seated at the podium with the members, who noted down their statements and drafted the order accordingly. An obvious deviance from the practice at other forums, that have a dedicated staff noting down orders only from the Bench so as to ensure minimal discrepancies in the Court’s diktat..The tribunal is also deficient in maintaining decorum when the Court is in session. A litigant sitting in the row behind me received a call and proceeded to have an extended conversation, without any consideration for the judges in the room. Neither was there any court staff who noticed this or warned him against it..Verdict.A consumer forum is meant to be consumer friendly and not antagonize the interest of the consumer. If a forum witnesses a practice of litigants appearing in person, it is all the more reason for the Bench to pull up its socks and address the grievances in the spirit of law..While it is up to every Bench to be governed by their Rules, the broad parameters of court decorum, recognizing precedents that do/do not govern its decisions and adequate institutional support must be followed. If not for these, a judicial body is nothing but one of those shops that I saw at the Community Centre- disorganized and disoriented.