Person availing services from bank is a ‘consumer’: Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court stated that a person who avails of any service from a bank will fall under the purview of the definition of a ‘consumer’.

Background

The case of the appellant was that he and his father, the respondent, opened a joint Fixed Deposit account on, at the Agra Branch of the first respondent. The amount of the FD on maturity was INR 77 lakhs. According to the appellant, the appellant and his father jointly gave written instructions to the respondent bank to renew the joint FD for ten days, while retaining the joint mode of operation. 

Appellant’s father the next day travelled to Surat to stay with his other son, the appellant’s elder brother. The appellant alleges that on next day, his father submitted a letter to the Manager of the respondent bank at its Adajan Branch, Surat requesting encashment of the entire FD amount of INR 77 lakhs to his (the father’s) individual savings account at Agra. The appellant wrote to the respondent bank with instructions to not transfer the FD amount to any individual bank account.

However, contrary to the instructions, the proceeds of the FD were credited to the account of the appellant’s father. The appellant received an email from the respondent bank stating that they had credited INR 77 lakhs to the appellant’s account. However, the appellant alleges that no such amount was credited to his account.

Arguments

Advocate Kushagra Pandey, counsel appearing on behalf of the appellant submitted that there is a clear deficiency of service on the part of the respondent bank.

He adverted to a communication which was addressed by the appellant to the respondent bank. Through the said communication, the appellant also instructed the bank to not transfer the FD amount to any single person account.

The council further submitted that the statement that the amount was credited to his account was palpably incorrect since the money was credited in the account of his father contrary to the instructions which were jointly issued.

Senior Advocate Arvind Nayar, appearing on behalf of the respondent, stated that the appellant misrepresented the age and health of his father to booked the second FD. Therefore, the respondent bank credited back INR 77 lakhs in the account of the appellant’s father.

Decision

The division bench of Justice A S Bopanna and Justice Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud noted that a person who avails of any service from a bank will fall under the purview of the definition of a ‘consumer’. There was a manifest error on the part of the SCDRC in declining to entertain the consumer complaint on merits.

The court observed that the SCDRC was wrong, deducing that there was a dispute between appellant and his father. Assuming that there was a dispute between the appellant and his father, that was not the subject matter of the consumer complaint. The complaint that there was a deficiency of service was against the bank.

The court set aside the orders of NCDRC and restored the First Appeal to the file of the NCDRC. 

The court ordered that since the consumer complaint was instituted before the SCDRC, the entirety of the dispute shall be resolved on merits by the NCDRC. All the rights and contentions of the parties, including the defence of the appellant on merits, are kept open.

Case title: Arun Bhatiya v/s HDFC Bank & Ors 

Citation: Civil Appeal Nos 5204-5205 of 2022

Click here to read the Order/Judgment 

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