Robbery of Bank Locker ……whether bank is liable for loss to the customer

 

Robbery of Bank Locker ……the bank is liable for loss to the customer under the Consumer Protection Act

  

Gist

June 13, 2017

  1. 26 lockers at a Punjab National Bank (PNB) branch in Ghaziabad near Delhi emptied out.
  2. CCTVs not working, no guard at bank.
  3. Robbery during week end by gang drilling hole into bank wall.

Facts

A group of thieves demolished a portion of the wall of the Punjab National Bank (PNB) bank’s branch in Ghaziabad  and emptied about 30 lockers.  The value would be in crores of rupees.

The police officers probing the bank robbery found that the CCTV cameras were not working, and there was no guard at the bank.

The police found that the gang had entered the bank by boring through a concrete wall. A dense cover of bushes concealed them as they demolished the wall.

According to the police, the burglary which was discovered on June 12, 2017

took place either on Saturday or Sunday when the bank was shut.


“I visited the crime spot and found that the bank lacks security measures. If any attempt was made to intrude into the bank, a siren should have gone off. But the siren did not work,” said a police officer.

 

Whether the Banks are liable for the loss


Similar locker robberies have taken place from time to time. The Banks deny any liability.

 The RBI and the public sector banks deny any liability

 A lawyer filed applications under the Right To Information Act (RTI) to the Reserve Bank of India  and 19 Public Sector Banks.

 

The Reserve Bank of India  and the 19 Public Sector Banks absolved themselves of any responsibility of items from personal lockers. They replied that Banks are not responsible for the loss or robbery of any valuables from a personal locker because the relationship between customers who use bank lockers and the banks themselves is that of a lessee (landlord) and lessor (tenant). 

 

Decisions under the Consumer Protection Act

 

The following are the arguments usually advanced by banks in such cases:


(i) That since the controversy involved in this case pertains to a criminal case which is also pending  before the competent criminal court, therefore, this Commission had no jurisdiction to decide the matter in question and thus the complaint filed by the complainant is not maintainable.

 

(ii) That as per the agreement executed between the complainant and opposite party  and as per terms and conditions thereof the complainant is estopped from questioning the bank for stolen of the ornaments in the incident of theft which had taken place in the bank.

 

(iii) That under the  conditions of the Safe Deposit Memorandum of hiring of lease,  it is clearly mentioned that the bank would not be responsible for any damages or loss to the contents kept in the safe deposits vault as a result of any act of war or civil disorder or theft or burglary and the contents would be kept by the hirer at his sole risk and responsibility. In light of above, for the loss of articles  in any incident of theft/ burglary, the bank cannot be held liable.

Various Consumer Commissions and Forums have found the bank liable in appropriate cases.  I am giving the link to one decision.

 

Decision of the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
RAJASTHAN, JAIPUR

Vivek Agarwal  & Ors.  Vs  Indian Overseas Bank

19 May, 2010

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