This revision petition has been filed by the petitioner Balwinder Singh against the order dated 04.05.2015 of the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Punjab (in short ‘the State Commission’) passed in First Appeal No.1138/2013.
2. Brief facts of the case are that in April, 2008, the petitioner was in need of money and believing the assurances of respondents pledged his gold ornaments weighing 209.50 grams i.e. 5 gold bangles weighing 74.50 grams, 3 gold rings weighing 24 grams, 2 gold necklace weighing 64 gram, 1 gold chain with locket weighing 21 grams and 6 gold studs weighing 26 grams to the respondents and got advanced a loan of Rs. 1,66,500/- vide loan no. 0001051 (old no. PPL839). On 10.07.2009, the petitioner visited the office of respondent No.3 to return the loan amount of all accounts with interest due till 10.07.2009 and to receive the gold ornaments pledged with them. But the Manager of Respondent No.3 told the petitioner that the gold ornaments of the petitioner have already been stolen on 17.05.2008 in a dacoity/robbery and a FIR No.39/2008 has been registered with the P.S.Division No.2, Ludhiana in this regard. Traumatized on hearing the same, the petitioner moved an application on 10.07.2009 to respondent No.3 to receive the loan amount and to return the gold ornaments and not to charge interest from the complainant but did not get satisfactory reply from the respondents nor his gold ornament were retuned to him. However, the Respondent got recovered their stolen Gold/Articles on superdari, but they even not disclosed this fact. Eventually the petitioner received a letter dated 26.12.2011 from the respondent for settling the loan. On 18.10.2012, the petitioner left with no option, filed a consumer complaint bearing no.868/2012 before District Forum, Ludhiana with prayer to release the gold ornament of the petitioner after receiving the loan amount after deducting the interest charged from the petitioner and declare the demand of interest illegal after 17.05.2008 i.e. the date when the respondent lost the custody of the gold ornament and directing the respondent to pay Rs.20,000/- as compensation for damage and loss suffered by the petitioner due to deficiency in service and unfair trade practice on the part of the respondent along with interest @18% per annum from the date of demand till realization. Vide order dated 19.08.2013 District Forum allowed the complaint with direction to the respondent to not recover the loan amount and not to charge the interest on the loan amount from the petitioner in proportionate to the value of the gold ornament since 10.07.2009 when the complainant for the first time made efforts to pay the balance loan amount. The respondent was further directed to receive the loan amount and hand over the gold ornament to the petitioner after getting the appropriate order from the competent court. The respondents were further directed to pay compensation and litigation cost to the tune of Rs.5000/-. On 21.10.2013, respondents herein moved an appeal before the State Commission, Punjab challenging the validity and sustainability of the order passed by the District Forum. Vide order dated 04.05.2015, the State Commission partly accepted the appeal and modified the order of the District Forum to the extent that respondent is entitled to charge simple interest as agreed between the parties on the outstanding amount as on 10.07.2009 because upto that date the interest has already been paid. After calculating the entire outstanding amount, the petitioner will pay the amount to the respondent within a period of three months from the dispatch of the order passed by the State Commission and respondent will release the pledged gold ornaments to the petitioner. In case the complainant fails to comply with the order in time, the opposite parties will be entitled to penal interest as per the agreement. The petitioner will not be entitled to compensation and costs.
3. Hence the present revision petition.
4. Heard the learned counsel for the parties and perused the record. Learned counsel for the petitioner stated that the State Commission has allowed interest to be paid by the complainant till the gold ornaments are handed over to the complainant, but the fact is that the complainant was ready to repay the total loan amount along with interest as early as 10.07.2009 and then the complainant was informed by the opposite parties that the gold ornaments were stolen in robbery on 17.05.2008. The complainant gave an application to the respondent no.3 on 10.07.2009 to receive the loan amount and return the gold ornaments. When the orders of the District Forum and the State Commission were passed, the gold ornaments were the case property and therefore, both the fora below directed the opposite parties to hand over the gold ornaments after receiving it from the court. Now it has been informed by the opposite parties that they have received the gold ornaments from the court. The only reason why the present revision petition has been filed is because the State Commission has wrongly ordered the payment of interest to the opposite parties by the complainant from 10.07.2009 till actual receiving of the gold ornaments. When the complainant was ready to return all the loan amounts along with interest and the opposite parties did not receive the same and the gold ornaments were not available with the opposite parties, then there should be no question of paying interest on the amount of loan. As the opposite parties could not return the gold ornaments due to their own problem and not due to any deficiency on the part of the complainant, the order of the State Commission represents the situation as if the complainant has delayed the repayment of the loan amount along with interest which is not correct. It was the duty of the opposite parties to keep the gold ornaments safely and if there was a robbery and the gold ornaments were stolen, no deficiency can be attributed to the complainant. Therefore, complainant is not liable to pay any interest after 10.07.2009 when he was willing to repay the loan along with all the interest.
5. On the other hand, learned counsel for the respondents stated that the delay has happened in the circumstances, which were beyond the control of the respondents. The fact is that the loan amount has not yet been paid and therefore, the respondents are entitled to get the interest on the loan amount. The State Commission has considered this aspect and has ordered accordingly. There is no illegality in the order of the State Commission. In fact the value of gold ornaments has not come down, rather it has increased and the complainant would be getting his gold ornaments in the same very condition in which they were pledged to get the loan. On the other hand, the value of the amount that was given as loan has reduced overtime until the same is compensated by way of providing interest.
6. I have carefully considered the arguments advanced by both the learned counsel for the parties and have examined the record. It may be true that the complainant was willing to repay the total loan amount along with interest on 10.07.2009, but the same was not paid at that time or the same was not accepted by the respondents. It seems unnatural that even after getting the information of the theft of gold ornaments, the complainant would have offered to repay the total loan amount along with interest. The State Commission has observed that when on 10.07.2009 the complainant approached the opposite parties to get the pledged property and the property was not in possession of the respondents/opposite parties, the complainant also did not perform his part of the contract by paying the balance amount. Even if it is assumed that the complainant was willing to pay the total loan amount on 10.07.2009 and was willing to get pledged property back, the fact remains that the money was actually not paid. Therefore, loan amount remained with the complainant which is to be returned now. The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the matter of Alok Shanker Pandey Vs. Union of India &Ors., II (2007) CPJ 3 (SC) has observed as under:-
“9. It may be mentioned that there is misconception about interest. Interest is not a penalty or punishment at all, but it is the normal accretion on capital. For example if A had to pay B a certain amount, say 10 years ago, but he offers that amount to him today, then he has pocketed the interest on the principal amount. Had A paid that amount to B 10 years ago, B would have invested that amount somewhere and earned interest thereon, but instead of that A has kept that amount with himself and earned interest on it for this period. Hence equity demands that A should not only pay back the principal amount but also the interest thereon to B.”
7. On the basis of the above judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, it is clear that if the amount remained with the complainant, he has to pay some interest. Clearly, the interest as per the loan contract cannot be charged by the opposite parties after 10.07.2009 as it was not possible for the opposite parties to have returned the pledged property to the complainant. Order of the State Commission implies that the respondents/opposite parties are entitled to get interest as per the loan agreement. But, I do not find any justification for payment of interest at this rate by the complainant to the opposite parties as the deficiency in service was on the part of the opposi
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te parties. In the facts and circumstances of the case, in my view, the complainant is required to pay interest @5% p.a. which will be reasonable compensation against time. 8. On the basis of the above discussion, the order of the State Commission is modified to the extent that the complainant will pay interest on the loan amount from 10.07.2009 till the time of receiving of the gold ornaments from the opposite parties @5% p.a. only and not as per the loan agreement/contract. The opposite parties shall return all the gold ornaments of the complainant in the same condition in which they were pledged by the complainant. The order be complied within a period of 45 days from the date of receipt of this order otherwise both parties will be eligible to file the execution of this order. The compensation and litigation cost granted by the District Forum will also be payable by the respondents/opposite parties. The order of the State Commission in respect of penal interest to be charged by the opposite parties after three months is set aside.