Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In an interesting case where one SBI account holder was left with a balance of Rs. 59/- only in his account due to the existence of another bank account with strikingly similar name in the same branch, the bench of Sanjiv Khanna and Bela M. Trivedi*, JJ has set aside the “highly erroneous” impugned order passed by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission solely relying upon the suo-moto report called for from SBI during the pendency of the revision application.

Factual Background

Sunil Kr. Maity had a saving account number 01190010167 with SBI since January, 2000. On 24.02.2010, the said account number was changed to number 10140478732. On 15.09.2012, the appellant went to deposit a sum of Rs. 500/- in the said account, when a staff of respondent-bank informed him that the account number had again been changed and wrote account number being 32432609504 on his passbook. The said amount was deposited in the said account number. Thereafter, on 16.01.2013, appellant deposited a cheque being no. 670013 for Rs. 3,00,000/- drawn on SBI of the said Branch.

When the appellant went to update his passbook on 11.12.2013, he noticed that his passbook showed the balance of Rs. 59/- only, though he had not made any transaction between 16.01.2013 to 11.12.2013. On the enquiry having been made, the respondent-bank informed the appellant that there was another customer by the name Sunil Maity whose account number was 32432609504 and the said account number was wrongly given to the appellant whose name was Sunil Kr Maity on 15.09.2012. The said Sunil Maity on 25.01.2013 and 28.01.2013 had withdrawn the sum of Rs. 1,00,000/- and Rs. 2,00,000/- respectively from the said account number.

When the matter reached the National Commission, it not only sought for a report from SBI at the revisional stage but set aside the findings and conclusion recorded by the District and State Forum, simply based on this report. The report indicated that the bank had every reason to believe that wrong account number was intentionally inserted by the appellant himself for reasons best known to the appellant or on account of negligence by the appellant by not keeping the passbook in his safe and proper custody.

Analysis

Explaining the scope of the revisional jurisdiction of the NCDRC under Section 21(b) of the said Act, the Court held that the same is extremely limited. It should be exercised only in case as contemplated within the parameters specified in the said provision, namely when it appears to the National Commission that the State Commission had exercised a jurisdiction not vested in it by law, or had failed to exercise jurisdiction so vested, or had acted in the exercise of its jurisdiction illegally or with material irregularity.

In the instant case, the Court noticed that the NCDRC itself had exceeded its revisional jurisdiction by calling for the report from the bank and solely relying upon such report, had come to the conclusion that the two fora below had erred in not undertaking the requisite in-depth appraisal of the case that was required.

The Supreme Court was at a loss to understand as to how the NCDRC could have sought for a report at the revisional stage, that too from an officer of the party which already had an opportunity to submit all the documents necessary for the purpose of defending itself before the Consumer Forum, and as to how such a report in the form of an additional evidence produced at the revisional stage could be relied upon, in respect of which the two fora below had no opportunity to deal with.

Contrary to the NCDRC’s opinion, the Court observed that both the State Commission as well as the Consumer Forum had elaborately appreciated the documents on record and passed the reasoned orders.

On the reliability of the report submitted by the Bank, the Court said that the report that tries to absolve the respondent-bank of its liability is based on surmises and conjectures as it abstrusely and without evidence holds that the bank has every reason to believe that wrong account number was intentionally inserted by the appellant himself for reasons best known to the appellant or on account of negligence by the appellant by not keeping the passbook in his safe and proper custody.

“The suppositions are contradictory as well as incredulous and fanciful. The appellant did not know the second respondent and would not have known his account number unless given to him by a bank officer. There was no way that the appellant would have known that the second respondent, namely Sunil Maity had an account in the same branch. No sane person would deposit cash or cheque meant to be deposited in his account in an account number belonging to another person with similar name.”

On the other hand, the bank should have been extra cautious given the fact that accounts of the appellant, Sunil Kumar Maity, and the second respondent, Sunil Maity, were with the same bank branch. The Court found it rather surprising that the NCDRC set aside the findings and conclusion recorded by the District and State Forum, by simply relying on this report.

The Court hence, restored the State Commission’s order wherein it was held that,

“Given that it is virtually impossible for one to know the account number of another person, and more so, as passbook is stated to be updated by Group ‘D’ staff of the bank, it would be myopic not to believe that the goof up created at the end of the Appellant itself. Besides this, since the Appellant made a great blunder while crediting the amount of the cheque to the account of Respondent No. 2, we feel, the Appellant must own up due responsibility in this regard.”

[Sunil Kumar Maity v. State Bank of India, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 77, decided on 21.01.2022]


*Judgment by: Justice Bela M. Trivedi

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Explaining the scope of Section 51 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, the bench of MR Shah* and BV Nagarathna, JJ has held that National Commission can pass an order to deposit the entire amount and/or any amount higher than 50 per cent of the amount in terms of the order of the State Commission while staying the order passed by the State commission.

However, at the same time, while considering the stay application against the order passed by the State Commission and while passing the order to deposit the entire amount and/or any amount higher than 50 per cent of the amount, the National Commission has to assign some reasons and pass a speaking order why the conditional stay is being granted on condition of deposit of the entire amount and/or any amount higher than 50 per cent of the amount. Such an order on the stay application is not to be passed mechanically.

Issue

Whether in an appeal under Section 51 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 and while considering the stay application to stay the order passed by the State Commission, the National Commission can pass an order to deposit the entire amount and/or any amount higher than 50 per cent of the amount in terms of the order of the State Commission?

Analysis

Section 51 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 – Explained

As per Section 51 of the Act, 2019, more particularly, second proviso to Section 51, the appellant(s) in an appeal against the order passed by the State Commission may prefer an appeal, however, before the appeal is entertained by the National Commission, the appellant(s) has to deposit 50 per cent of the amount.

It is the pre-condition to deposit 50 per cent of the amount as ordered by the State Commission before his appeal is entertained by the National Commission. However, that does not take away the jurisdiction of the National Commission to order to deposit the entire amount and or any amount higher than 50 per cent of the amount while considering the stay application to stay the order passed by the State Commission.

“Rules for entertainment of an appeal on deposit of 50 per cent of the amount ordered by the State Commission, which is a statutory pre-deposit and the grant of interim order on the stay application subject to deposit of further amount are distinct and different. Pre-deposit condition as per second proviso to Section 51 has no nexus with the grant of interim order of stay by the National Commission subject to deposit of the amount awarded by the State Commission.”

Speaking order

In Shreenath Corporation v Consumer Education and Research Society, (2014) 8 SCC 657, the Court considered the Order XLI Rule 5 and Order XXXIX Rule 1 of the CPC alongwith the object and purpose of the deposit of the amount as a pre-deposit before the appeal is entertained under Section 19 of the Act, 1986 and held that,

“The order passed by the State Commission directing the appellant to refund the amount and/or pay any amount higher than 50 per cent can be said to be akin to a money decree. Even as per Order XLI Rule 5, the general rule is that normally there shall not be any unconditional stay of a money decree, however, at the same time, the Appellate Court may pass an appropriate conditional order while staying the impugned decree depending upon the facts of the case and by giving cogent reasons.”

Hence, if the National Commission after hearing the appeal of the parties in its discretion wants to stay the amount awarded by the State Commission, it is open to the National Commission to pass an appropriate interim order including a conditional order of stay.

However, the National Commission has to pass a speaking order giving some reasons why in the facts of the particular case the conditional stay of the order passed by the State Commission is to be passed subject to deposit of the entire amount and/or any amount higher than 50 per cent of the amount awarded by the State Commission and that too after giving an opportunity to the appellant as well as to the respondent.

“The order on the stay application is not to be passed mechanically. It must reflect an application of mind by the National Commission why the order passed by the State Commission is to be stayed on condition of deposit of the entire amount and/or any amount higher than 50 per cent of the amount awarded by the State Commission.”

However, at the same time, there is no discretion at all to stay the order passed by the State Commission subject to deposit of any amount less than 50 per cent of the amount which is required to be deposited as a pre-deposit before the appeal is entertained as per second proviso to Section 51 of the Act, 2019.

Conclusion

  • Pre-deposit of 50 per cent of amount as ordered by the State Commission under second proviso to Section 51 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 is mandatory for entertainment of an appeal by the National Commission;
  • the object of the said pre-deposit condition is to avoid frivolous appeals;
  • the said pre-deposit condition has no nexus with the grant of stay by the National Commission;
  • while considering the stay application in staying the order passed by the State Commission, the National Commission can grant a conditional stay directing the appellant(s) to deposit the entire amount and/or any amount higher than 50 per cent of the amount in terms of the order of the State Commission;
  • however, at the same time, the National Commission has to assign some cogent reasons and/or pass a speaking order when the conditional stay of the order passed by the State Commission is passed subject to deposit of the entire amount and/or any amount higher than 50 per cent of the amount either as an ex parte order or after hearing both sides and considering the facts and circumstances of the case.
  • Thus, the National Commission can grant a conditional stay of the order passed by the State Commission on deposit of the entire amount and/or any amount higher than 50 per cent of the amount as ordered by the State Commission.

[Manohar Infrastructure and Constructions Pvt. Ltd. v. Sanjeev Kumar Sharma, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 1182, decided on 07.12.2021]


Counsels

For appellants: Senior Advocate Sidharth Dave and Advocate Kanika Agnihotri


*Judgment by: Justice MR Shah

Know Thy Judge | Justice M. R. Shah

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: While addressing the matter wherein a passenger suffered loss and agony due to delay in the arrival of train, M.R Shah and Aniruddha Bose, JJ., observed that,

These are the days of competition and accountability. If public transportation has to survive and compete with private players, they have to improve the system and their working culture.

Background

Aggrieved by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, State Commission and District Forum, wherein the    Northern Western Railway and another were directed to pay to the complainant – respondent Rs 15,000 for taxi expenses, Rs 10,000 towards booking expenses along with Rs 5,000 towards mental agony and litigation expenses. Aggrieved by the same, present special leave petition was preferred.

Respondent had booked 4 tickets from Northern Western Railway along with the return reserved tickets.

Respondent’s case was that, he had to take flight at 12:00 noon from Jammu to Srinagar in SpiceJet. But the said train did not reach in time and it was delayed by 4 hours and reached Jammu at 12:00 noon.

Since the Jammu Airport was at a far distance from Jammu Railway Station and they had to reach the airport at least two hours prior to the departure of the flight, they could not reach in time and missed the flight.

Further, the respondent had to book private taxi to reach Srinagar.

In view of the above background, respondent claimed a loss of Rs 9,000as airfare, Rs 15,000 towards taxi hire charges for going from Jammu to Srinagar, Rs 10,000 on account of booking of boat in Dal Lake.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Supreme Court opined that in view of the facts and circumstances of the case, impugned orders awarding compensation to the complainant do not warrant any interference.

No evidence was led by the railways explaining the delay and/or late arrival of train at Jammu. The railways were required to lead the evidence and explain the late arrival of train to establish and prove that delay occurred because of reasons beyond their control. 

At least the railways were required to explain the delay which the railways failed.

Bench held that unless and until the evidence was laid explaining the delay and it was established and proved that delay occurred which was beyond their control and/or even there was some justification for delay, the railway is liable to pay the compensation for delay and late arrival of trains.

Hence, in the present matter, the decision of the Commission’s observing that there was a deficiency in service leading to the railways being liable to pay the compensation to the passenger – complainant was rightly observed.

While concluding the matter and stating that no interference of this Court is called for, Bench emphasized that,

Citizen/passenger cannot be at the mercy of the authorities/administration. Somebody has to accept the responsibility.

 [Northern Western Railway v. Sanjay Shukla, Special Leave Petition (C) No. 13288 of 2021, decided on 6-09-2021]

Legislation UpdatesNotifications

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission

Central Government establishes a National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission to be known as the National Commission.

The President and every other member of the National Commission appointed immediately before the commencement of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 shall continue to hold office as the President and Member of the National Commission as provided in Section 56 of the said Act.

NOTIFICATION


Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution

[Notification dt. 11-01-2020]