Oral:Late Shrimati Durgawati Devi, mother of the complainant, had a fixed deposit account with Sahara India and deposited a sum of Rs.10,000/- on 21.05.2003. A sum of Rs.7,000/- was separately deposited by her in the monthly deposit scheme. She having died on 30.09.2004 the complainant, she being her daughter and nominee, applied for the benefits available under the scheme in which the deposits were made. The main grievance of the complainant is that she was entitled to death assistance/death help on the death of the deceased which was not provided to her. She, therefore, approached the concerned District Forum by way of a consumer complaint seeking death help of Rs.80,000/- with interest and compensation.
2. The complaint was resisted by the petitioner and it took a preliminary objection in its written version alleging that the schemes in which deposits were made by the deceased were operated by the companies namely Sahara Commercial Corporation Limited and Sahara India Financial Corporation and the petitioner was only an agent of the said companies. On merits it was inter alia stated that the complainant had not completed due formalities required for obtaining the assistance available under the scheme. It was also stated in the written version that the deceased had deposited only Rs.5,500/- whereas it was necessary to deposit Rs 6,000/- for obtaining death assistance.
3. The District Forum by its order dated 07.01.2008 allowed the consumer complaint and directed the petitioner to pay death help of Rs.80,000/- with interest within two months along with compensation quantified at Rs 2,000/-.
4. Being aggrieved from the order passed by the District Forum, the petitioner approached the concerned State Commission by way of an appeal. Vide impugned order the State Commission dismissed the Appeal filed by the petitioner. Being aggrieved the petitioner is before this Commission.
5. The first submission of the Ld. counsel for the petitioner is that the petitioner was bad for non joinder of the companies namely Sahara Commercial Corporation Limited and Sahara India Financial Corporation. Though the petitioner claims to be an agent of the above-refereed companies the submission of the Ld. counsel for the complainant is that the petitioner is an ‘Umbrella Organisation’ of Sahara India Group and controls the affairs of all companies of the group including the companies referred above. A perusal of the written version filed before the District Forum would show that the petitioner contested the consumer complaint on merits questioning her entitlement to the death help. It clearly shows that the petitioner is integrally connected with the companies namely Sahara Commercial Corporation Limited and Sahara India Financial Corporation and forms part of the same group to which the said companies belong. In a consumer matter of this nature where the amount involved is very small and the complainant is the nominee of a very small investor it will not be appropriate to interfere with the concurrent order passed by the fora below in exercise of the revisional jurisdiction of this Commission when the matter was contested not only on preliminary issue but also on merits. Ultimately, the amount payable to the complainant in terms of the order passed by the Fora below may come from the coffers of the concerned companies which have contested the consumer complaint through the petitioner organization. In fact, the petitioner itself has stated in the Revision Petition that ‘it’ had paid the invested amount to the complainant with interest. Therefore, I am not inclined to entertain the preliminary issue at this stage.
6. As far as the merits of the case are concerned the clause pertaining to grant of death help in the event of the death of the account holder reads as under:-
(8) AFTER DEATH ASSISTANCE
On death o/ the Bond holder, nominated successor of the deceased Account Holder shall be entitled for assistance after death on the basis of following terms and conditions:-
(a) At the time of death, age of Bond holder should be between 15 years and 65 years.
(b) Death of Bond holder might have after 12 months/365 days of purchasing the Bond and before maturity period of the Bond.
(c) Cause of death of the Bond holder should not be due communal riots or any war.
(d) Cause of death of the Bond holder should not be due communal riots or any war.
(e) The Bond holder should have not suffered from any fatal/incurable disease continuously within 03 years prior to starting of Account. The nominated successor shall submit reliable and proved documents in this connection for obtaining assistance after death, which shall also accompany with the proof relating to Birth certificate of the Bond holder and death certificate to the satisfaction of company.
(9) AMOUNT OF AFTER DEATH ASSISTANCE
On the death of Bond holder, amount mentioned in the Bond shall be calculated with pre stage rate of interest, after adjustment of the secured loan borrowed by the Bond holder and interest accrued thereon, remaining amount shall be refunded by the company to the nominated successor of the Bond holder. Apart from this, 5% amount of the total value of Bond shall be payable as after death assistance to the nominated successor of the Bond holder as per rule. If death of Bond holder occurs any time after 12 months of purchasing the Bond, then 5% amount of the value of the Bond shall be payable to the nominated successor of the Bond holder upto period of 100 months. The nominated successor of the Bond holder may obtained facility of after death assistance only by furnishing his/her personal Bond. A period of 16 years shall be given for refunding after death assistance. No interest shall be charged on this amount and it shall not be necessary to refund this amount till five years of receiving after death assistance.”
7. The Petitioner failed to show that a complainant was not entitled to the death assistance in terms of the clause contained in the scheme in which the deposits were made by the deceased. Though, the said amount was returnable to the company, it was not to carry and interest and was to be disbursed on the strength of the personal bond of the nominee of the depositor. This is nobody’s case that the complainant was not willing to execute the personal bond. In fact, the petitioner or for that matter the companies namely Sahara Commercial Corporation Limited and Sahara India Financial Corporation never offered the death assistance to the complainant. The complainant, therefore, has rightly been held entitled to the said death assistance.
8. The Ld. counsel for the petitioner submits that appropriate surety should be asked from the complainant before asking them to disburse death assistance. Reliance is placed by the Ld. Counsel upon the decision of this commission in Sahara India Pariwar Vs. Pawan Kumar Jain I (2015) CPJ 721 (NC) wherein this Commission inter alia held as under:-
“6. It is contended by the learned Counsel for the petitioner Company that the complaint ought to have been filed within two years from the date on which the sum of Rs. 14,000 was paid to the complainant and the said amount having been paid on 25.11.2004, the complaint filed on 18.12.2007 was clearly barred by limitation prescribed in Section 24A of the Consumer Protection Act.
7. As far as limitation is concerned, we find no merit in the submissions made by the learned Counsel for the petitioner. While making payment of Rs. 14,000 to the complainant, the petitioner Company did not refuse to extend the Death Help Scheme to him. On receipt of the aforesaid amount, the complainant requested to the petitioner Company for payment in terms of the said Scheme. That prayer, however, was never rejected by the petitioner Company. Therefore, there is no merit in the contention that the period of limitation for the purpose of claiming benefit of Death Help Scheme would commence from the date of payment of Rs. 14,000 to the complainant.
8. It is next contended by the learned Counsel for the petitioner that in terms of Clause 8(f), the benefit under the Death Help Scheme is payable only if the bond holder is not suffering from any chronic or fatal disease within three years of the opening his account with the petitioner Company. However, in the case before us, there is no evidence of the deceased suffering from any chronic/fatal disease within three years from opening her account with the petitioner Company. Therefore, the benefit of the Death Help Scheme cannot be refused to her.
9. The learned Counsel for the petitioner lastly submits that in terms of the second para of Clause 9 of the Scheme, the nominee is required to refund the amount received by it within a period of 16 years without paying any interest and such repayment would not be necessary within five years from the date of receiving the Death Help Scheme. The contention is justified. We, therefore, make it clear that the complainant would have to repay the amount which he would receive as a benefit under the Death Help Scheme, within the period of 16 years, though without any interest on that amount. He will also have to give personal guarantee in terms of para 2 of Clause 9 of the Scheme, while receiving the payment from the petitioner Company. The repayment would start after five years from the date of receiving the benefit and the entire amount would be paid by him in equal monthly instalments spread over a period of 11 years. The complainant shall also furnish the bank guarantee before the concerned District Forum after the petitioner Company has deposited the amount payable to him, before the said Forum. The personal guarantee would be handed over before the concerned District Forum to the petitioner Company and the amount deposited by it would then be released to the complainant. The revision petition stands disposed of acc
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ordingly.” 9. In my opinion, in this matter there is no justification for asking the complainant, for the surety when the scheme itself requires to furnish only her personal bond. Asking for the surety would be contrary to the terms of the scheme and possibly result in frustrating the grant of the assistance since being a poor person the complainant may not be in a position to furnish the surety to the satisfaction of the petitioner. In Pawan Kumar Jain (supra), the relevant scheme itself provided for personal surety of the nominee, but in this matter only personal bond is required. 10. For the reasons stated hereinabove, I hold that the petitioner shall pay to the complainant death assistance computed in terms of the above referred provisions of the scheme. In the facts and circumstances of the case the petitioner shall also pay a sum of Rs.25,000/- as compensation to the complainant. Costs of litigation quantified at Rs.10,000/- shall also be paid to her. The payment in terms of the order shall be made within 8 weeks from today. Revision petition stands disposed of.