Prabhakkar Sharma

CONSUMERNOTES The consumer, an officer of the Bank of India, took housing and educational loans from the bank.

VISAKHAPATNAM: A nationalised bank which failed to return documents to a consumer even after clearing the loans was directed by the Visakhapatnam District Consumer Forum-I to return the documents within a month along with Rs.25,000 as compensation and Rs.5,000 towards costs for deficiency in service.

A resident of Bapatla of Guntur district, Pratapa Sita Ramanjaneya Sastry, while working as officer in Bank of India availed himself of housing loan from the bank by depositing all his title deeds. He later took voluntary retirement at the end of 2000. He also stood as guarantor for the educational loan utilised by his son from the Chennai branch of the same bank, and extended mortgage with the bank at Visakhapatnam to that extent.

The consumer cleared the housing loan in January 2001 and the educational loan in June 2004. After the loans are discharged completely, the bank is bound to return all the documents. But in spite of several demands, the documents were not returned. Ultimately, he issued a legal notice for which he received a telegraphic reply stating that there was shifting of the bank premises in recent past and that they were on the job of searching for the documents.

Property disposal

The consumer wanted to dispose of the property to meet his financial and family commitments. But, for want of the documents, he was unable to do so. He filed a complaint (403/2006) in the Forum against the Chief Manager of Bank of India Visakhapatnam main branch in the city for a direction to return all documents and to pay costs and expenses.

The opposite party (OP) received notice issued by the Forum but remained ex parte.

Though the OP never denied the consumer's allegation and stated, "We are verifying our records in view of shifting the branch premises in the recent past. We will revert back to you," it did not revert back at anytime even after receiving notice from the Forum. The way in which the OP conducted itself in relation to its customers was surprising and causing anxiety, observed Forum president Y. Dhilleswara Rao and members G. Viswanatha Reddy and D. Suseela in their judgement on Tuesday.

The consumer was unable to sell his house as the bank had failed to return his documents and he suffered loss and damage. "But having regard to his past employment with the OP bank, he did not claim money in terms of damage. This does not mean there is no deficiency in service and the complainant is not entitled to any compensation.

This is a case of malfeasance with silver line of negligence born and brought up in the house of a national bank," they remarked.

The Forum allowed the complaint directing the OP to return all documents to the consumer within 30 days.

It further awarded compensation and costs and also directed the OP to issue a certificate to the complainant that the documents were not traceable at its end due to misplacement.