In unique situation, private firm was agreeable to pay out funds but pending civil court verdict stalled order

The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) on Tuesday disposed of a 17-year-old case related to the withdrawal of a fixed deposit held by a private firm. The commission ruled that the complaint, filed in 1997, was not maintainable and the complainant should seek remedy through a civil suit.

The case, the Commission’s longest-pending, presented a unique situation in which the firm was ready to pay the amount even as the NCDRC could not pass the order. A two-member Bench of the Commission observed that its directions could come into conflict with a subsequent civil court verdict.

The Bench, comprising Justice J.M. Malik and S.M. Kantikar, stated in its recent 13-page judgment in the matter of Pradeep Kumar Goel vs. J.K. Synthetics Limited that it had made the “closest scrutiny” of the record, heard the complainant and counsel for opposite parties and gone through the written synopses to arrive at the finding that the case was not maintainable.

Mr. Goel had deposited Rs.13.85 lakh in fixed deposit with J.K. Synthetics, for which the FD receipts were issued in the joint names of his father, himself and his wife during 1991-92. When his father died in August 1991, he requested the firm to delete his father’s name and allow premature withdrawal of funds.

However, Mr. Goel’s brother Deepak Kumar requested the firm not to pay out the amount to him. J.K. Synthetics advised the brother to obtain an injunction order from the court against the complainant. Both brothers went to the court; one obtained interim injunction and the other got it vacated.

The firm refused to pay the amount to the complainant on the grounds that no specific orders had been passed by any court. The matter went to the Allahabad High Court and later the Supreme Court.

On a petition filed by Mr. Goel in 1995, a four-member Bench of the Commission, headed by the then president Justice V. Balakrishna Eradi, held that the dispute could not be adjudicated when civil proceedings on identical issues were pending in courts. It said the complainant was at liberty to move a civil court to have his title to the money declared.

Mr. Goel filed a second complaint before the NCDRC on January 27, 1997, which was on Tuesday disposed of. Dismissing the complaint, the Commission said Mr. Goel should have filed a civil suit after the 1995 orders and could still go to the civil court, as the time spent in the proceedings before the NCDRC would be excluded from the limitation period for the suit.

The Commission also took note of an argument put forth by counsel for the firm that it should not be made to pay the amount twice. In case the money is given to the complainant and the civil court later rules that the money be given to his brother, the firm would be vexed twice.

Keywords: Fixed depositsNCDRC

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