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State Bank of India v. Pushpakala R. Jimulia and Ors. - (National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission) (11 Nov 2016)

Maintenance of regular savings bank account and availing services provided by Bank covered under definition of consumer



Issue in present case is relating to deficiency in service on part of Bank in denying payment of cheque and resultantly, financial loss had been caused to complainant. District Forum ordered the dismissal of the consumer complaint on the ground that the complainants were not consumers. Being aggrieved against the said order of the District Forum, the complainants challenged the same by way of an appeal before the State Commission, which partly allowed the same vide impugned order, and found the Bank deficient in rendering service to the respondent and directed them to pay an amount of Rs. 7 lakhs as compensation for mental agony and negligence on their part. Being aggrieved against said order, OP Bank is before this Commission by way of present revision petition.

In present case, complainants are maintaining a regular savings bank account with OP Bank since 2005. It is clear, therefore, that they have been availing themselves of services provided by Bank and hence, are consumers vis-à-vis the Bank. An account holder having a savings bank account may issue a cheque for any purpose, whether commercial or non-commercial. Since, complainants were joint holders of a savings bank account with Bank, they are definitely covered under definition of consumer vis-à-vis the Bank. It is apparent that complainants cannot be held to be non-consumers, but as stated already, even if the cheque was issued for a commercial purpose, the basic issue concerning the dishonour of the cheque by the Bank has to be adjudicated independently.

Cheque was returned to the HDFC Bank with a written memo on the plea that the signatures of the complainant on the said cheque did not match with those maintained in the record of the Bank. There are two reports given by two different finger-print experts on the issue of the said signatures. The expert produced by the complainants says that the signatures on the cheque did tally with their standard signatures, whereas the expert produced by the Bank gives an opposite version. In this kind of situation, it is difficult to place reliance on either of the two reports. However, natural implication/presumption that emerges after considering these two conflicting reports is that doubt could have developed in the minds of the dealing officials of the petitioner Bank, in so far as the authenticity of the signatures on the cheque was concerned. In their good judgment, the said official may have decided to take the safer path and decided to return the cheque, rather than honouring the same. It has nowhere been alleged or proved that there was any wrong intention on the part of the said officials that they decided to dishonour the cheque, which proved harmful to the interest of complainants.

Action of officials of Petitioner Bank in dishonouring said cheque did not amount to deficiency in service on their part. It could best be termed as an error of judgment, but in absence of any evidence of wrongful intention on part of these officials, Bank is held not liable to be penalised for dishonour of cheque. Orders passed by consumer fora below were set aside.


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