National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): While rendering relief to a woman who failed to procure back her gold ornaments from Muthoot Finance Pvt. Ltd., which were pledged while taking a loan, NCDRC directed the Finance Company to reimburse the woman with the current value of 52 grams gold pledged in 2003 with it. Earlier, in Year 2003, the complainant pledged 52 grams of gold for Rs 21,000 with the Paravoor branch of Muthoot Finance Pvt. Ltd. When she approached the concerned branch in April 2004 to take back the ornaments by paying the loan amount with interest, they refused, saying that the ornaments had been transferred to their head office by mistake. Thereafter, she left the town where she was then living and settled in Ernakulam. In May 2011, she approached the Finance Company again to redeem the ornaments pledged, but the said ornaments were not returned to her. Being aggrieved, she approached District Forum with a complaint. Before the Forum, Company contended that the complaint was barred by limitation and it was also alleged that the complainant had not turned up after pledging the gold ornaments. The District Forum dismissed the complaint and an appeal in the matter was also rejected by Kerala State Commission. Hence, complainant filed revision petition before NCDRC. After hearing the parties and perusal of record, NCDRC rejected the contention of Muthoot Finance that the revision petition was barred by limitation and observed that in a case where the goods are held in trust for the depositor, the owner of the gold ornaments has a recurrent / continuing cause of action against the pledgee, till either the gold ornaments are returned to her or the pledgee refuses to return the said ornaments. NCDRC held that being a pledgee, Muthoot Finance is duty bound to either return the jewellery pledged by the complainant against payment of the principal amount with interest or to produce the proof of having sold the same, in case the jewellery stands sold on account of non-payment of the loan taken by the complainant but Muthoot Finance failed to do so. While rendering relief to the complainant, Commission noted, “If the ornaments were sold, there has to be proof of sending notice to the complainant, as well as proof of the actual sale. Since no such record is available with the respondent, it must necessarily tell us, where the jewellery of the complainant is. That having not been done, the respondent must necessarily pay the current value of the gold ornaments which was stated to be Rs.1,14,400/- to the petitioner / complainant, after adjusting the principal amount lent to the complainant, along with the agreed interest.”[Lathika C. v. Muthoot Finance Pvt. Ltd., 2016 SCC OnLine NCDRC 279, decided on July 4, 2016]

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