In a judgement in January 2019, the Apex consumer forum NCDRC has held that a bank is a service provider when it serves a pension account holder and a pensioner is a consumer under Consumer Protection Act, 1986 and can raise a dispute agaisnt the bank for deficiency in service.
In the Complaint case it was stated that the Respondent / Complainant was the widow of a defence personnel. Upon the death of her husband, she was receiving pension in her Savings Bank Account, jointly held with her son. Her son was an employee of the Petitioner Bank. The Bank Authority froze the Respondent’s Account, since her son was charged with misappropriation of money. It was stated that due to the said action of the Petitioners, transactions in respect of the Pension Account became barred, subjecting the family pensioner to utter deprivation from enjoying her pension, which was her sole source of sustenance. Hence, Complaint was filed by the Respondent against the Petitioners alleging deficiency in service.
District Forum, vide order dated 24.04.2018, allowed the prayer of the Respondent for injunction, because the Respondent was a pension holder and that the account was a joint one. The Bank Authority, withheld the pension amount, but pension is meant for survival of the pension holder, which cannot be attached or withheld by any one. Thus, Petitioner No.1 was directed to allow the Respondent to withdraw the pension amount only, credited to the account in question. The Respondent will not be permitted to withdraw any other amount, except the pension amount, unless and until any order was made by the Forum. Thus, injunction petition was disposed of on contest without any cost.
The Petitioners being aggrieved by the order passed by the District Forum, filed an Appeal before the State Commission. The State Commission, vide order dated 18.09.2018 (FA 81 of 2018), dismissed the Appeal filed by the Petitioners and upheld the order passed by the District Forum.
Being aggrieved by the order passed by the State Commission, the Petitioners filed the present Revision Petition before this Commission (RP 2840 of 2018),
National Commission heard the Counsel for Petitioners and gave the following order:
“We have carefully gone through the orders passed by the State Commission as well as by the District Forum in this matter.
The District Forum stated in its order that the Respondent is a widow and her husband was a defence employee. After the demise of her husband, family pension used to be credited in the Savings Banks Account, which the Respondent held jointly with her son.Under no circumstances, pension can be withheld, as the account in question is a pension account. Pension is meant for the survival of the pension holder and prima facie there is a urgency. Hence, if the amount is not withdrawn, the Respondent will suffer irreparable loss and injury.
The State Commission had also stated in its order that they do not find any irregularity in the order passed by the District Forum, as no transaction other than withdrawal of the pension amount was allowed in respect of the subject Bank Account. It is further stated that the Petitioners had also argued that they had no intention to withhold the Pension Account. The Respondent cannot be made to suffer due to the offence committed by her son, who incidentally was a joint holder of the Account in question.
Having heard the Learned Counsel for the Petitioner and carefully perused the record, we find no irregularity in the order passed by both the District Forum and the State Commission. The Respondent was a customer of the Petitioner as she was having a joint account in the Petitioner’s Bank, where her pension was regularly deposited.The Petitioner was a service provider.The Petitioner Bank froze her account and wrongly denied her access to her pension, which amounted to deficiency in service.She, thus, filed a consumer complaint in the consumer fora.It is clear from the evidence available on record as well from the Orders of the lower Fora, that no fault was committed by the Respondent.She cannot be made suffer, only due to the reason that she was having a Joint Account with her son, who had allegedly committed an offence. The Petitioner Bank had no reason to withhold Pension”