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Posted at: Nov 22, 2015, 1:28 AM; last updated: Nov 22, 2015, 1:20 AM (IST)

Consumer Forum penalises private bank for deficiency in service

Kulwinder Sangha

Mohali, November 21

The District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum has found HDFC Bank Ltd deficient in service and directed it to pay a compensation of Rs 25,000, including litigation costs, for mental agony and harassment caused to the complainants in a draft case.

It also directed the bank branch concerned to pay interest at the rate of 9 per cent per annum on Rs 2 crore from June 28, 2014, till August 19, 2014.

Jaspal Singh Malik, who held a general power of attorney of Ravinder Kaur Wadhwa, both Panchkula residents, said he received a draft of Rs 2 crore on behalf of the latter. She had an account with the Phase VII branch of the bank in Mohali while he had an account with some other bank.

Malik alleged that he deposited the draft with the Mohali branch in Wadhwa’s account. The account number of Wadhwa and the mobile number of Malik were mentioned on the voucher. Wadhwa later issued two cheques, each for Rs 35,00,000, in Malik’s favour. He presented the cheques, which were dishonoured with the remarks “funds insufficient”.

The complainants approached the Mohali branch, which said no amount had been credited in Wadhwa’s account. Malik, who was abroad, came to India for cheque presentation. He approached the bank’s Sector 11 branch in Panchkula to collect the draft. The bank allegedly refused to hand over the draft and said it would give it to Wadhwa.

These branches had a facility wherein the draft could be deposited with any branch and the same was to be credited in the account holder’s name within 24 hours.

Wadhwa reached India on August 18, 2014, and the complainants found that the draft was not sent to the Mohali branch by the Panchkula branch. It was also found that the Panchkula branch had allegedly made an entry of Rs 20,00,000 in place of Rs 2,00,00,000. This branch refused to return the draft and told the complainants to collect it from the Mohali branch. The draft was returned, presented in some other bank account and credited in Wadhwa’s account.

Denying deficiency in service, the branches pleaded, among other things, that Malik had no locus standi to file the complaint. The draft was in Wadhwa’s name and was to be collected in her account maintained with the bank branches. Action by Malik on behalf of Wadhwa on any date before August 20, 2014, when the power of attorney was executed, had no relevance.

The forum said the draft deposited with the Panchkula branch had been referred back by this branch to the Mohali branch on August 19, 2014. The bank branches had pleaded that their officer had tried to contact the complainants on the mobile number mentioned on the deposit slip but the phone did not respond.

The forum said as per a bank circular, in case the customer was not approachable on the telephone, the branch was to courier the cheque to the customer’s address accompanied with a cheque deposit return memo. The branches failed to show any document or courier receipt in this regard. The Panchkula branch sat over the draft from June 28, 2014, to August 19, 2014 without any communication to the complainant or the draft depositor. This branch indulged in unfair trade practice by withholding the draft and by not communicating with the account holder/depositor; and further, by not showing any inter-branch communication till August 19, 2014, indulged in unfair trade practice and deficiency in service.

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