Forum asks bank to compensate customer

CHENNAI SEPT. 21. A consumer forum has directed a bank to pay a compensation of Rs. 50,000 to its customer for returning a cheque erroneously though he had sufficient balance in his account. It also ordered the bank to pay Rs. 1,000 as costs.

In his complaint to the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Chennai (north), Capt. N. Rajan of Chetput here said he used to get his salary by way of credit with the ICICI Bank, Haddows Road, Nungambakkam. In November 2000, a credit of Rs. 23,727 was due and Rs. 6,594 had to be auto-debited from his account towards a loan. The bank failed to clear the cheque issued by a finance company stating that sufficient funds were not available in the account. But, he had adequate funds to clear the cheque. The bank returned the cheque in a callous manner.

The bank submitted that the complaint was not maintainable as the complainant did not have any account in the office at Nungambakkam. It was not aware of the cheque for Rs. 6,594.

The forum president, K. Ramasamy, and members, V. M. Thandapani and Nagammai Karuppiah, said a perusal of the documents showed "how careless a bank could be in handling the accounts of a customer." The bank had taken a defence even without verifying its own documents. The forum said the bank had written to the complainant regretting that it had erroneously returned the cheque. That the complainant's employer used to send a credit voucher and the bank used to credit the amount in his account and also that he had sufficient funds when the cheque was issued had been established through various exhibits filed. A copy of the accounts showed that the complainant had a joint account with the bank's Cenotaph Road branch. But the opposite party had not disputed the fact and the practice that accounts could be operated in any one of the bank. "Without exercising diligence, the opposite party had returned the cheque causing damage to the reputation of the complainant," the forum said.

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