Dilip Kumar Mahanta, Member
This appeal has been filed by the Indian Overseas Bank against the order dated 6.9.2012, passed by the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Dibrugarh, in respect of the C. P. Case No. 29 of 2007, whereby, the District Forum has directed the appellant bank to disburse to the respondent complainant the amount of Rs. 2,29,600 (Pre-payment charge recovered by the appellant bank from the complainant) plus Rs. 2,50,000 (Loan Processing Fees charged by Punjab National Bank from the complainant) together with litigation cost of Rs. 5,000. Aggrieved by the said order passed by the District Forum, the appellant bank has now filed this appeal.
2. Brief facts of the case are that respondent complainant firm availed Term Loan/Credit Facility to the tune of Rs. 229.6 lacs from the Dibrugarh Branch of the Indian Overseas Bank and after due negotiation, entered into an agreement to this effect on 11.3.2006. It has been alleged by the complainant that initially, though, the bank fixed the rate of interest to be charged @ 11% per annum, subsequently, they arbitrarily increased the rate of interest to @ 11.5% and then to @ 12% per annum, which forced him to apply for premature closure of his loan account and accordingly, on 16.3.2007, the outstanding amount as demanded by the bank, was duly paid. It has further been alleged by the complainant that though request was made to the appellant bank to supply him the copies of relevant notifications/circulars issued by the Reserve Bank of India issued in connection with the increase of rate of interest, the bank refused to provide the same citing reason that those were meant only for internal communication.
3. In view of the said situation, the respondent, as complainant, filed the C. P. Case No. 29 of 2007 before the District Forum praying for a direction to the appellant bank for reimbursement of Rs. 2,97,700 being the expenses that the complainant had to pay to the Punjab National Bank for obtaining a term loan under compelling circumstances, Rs. 28,335 on account of excess interest realized, Rs. 2,29,600 recovered by the appellant from the complainant towards pre-payment charges and Rs. 10,00,000 as compensation for mental agony and harassment plus the cost of litigation. The District Forum after hearing the parties allowed the said complaint, as indicated above, which has now been challenged in the present appeal.
4. We have heard the learned Counsel appearing for the appellant bank. We have also perused the impugned award of the District Forum as well as the records of the consumer case filed by the respondent complainant. However, the oral submission of the contesting respondent could not be taken notice of as their engaged Counsel was not in attendance for the last several dates fixed for hearing.
5. There is no dispute between the parties that they entered into an agreement regarding the Term Loan/Credit Facility in question, where all the relevant conditions were enumerated. The said agreement clearly reveals that the pre-payment of the term loan will attract 1% penal interest of the limit sanctioned (Clause 22 of the acceptance letter).
6. In view of the said position, the collection of the 1% penal interest of the limit sanctioned amounting to Rs. 2,29,600 recovered by the appellant from the complainant towards pre-payment charges, cannot be said to be an illegal exercise. For that reason, the District Forum, in our considered opinion, was totally incorrect in ordering the appellant bank to refund the said amount to the respondent complainant.
7. Likewise, we are of the view that the amount of Rs. 2,50,000 (alleged Loan Processing Fees charged by the Punjab National Bank from the complainant) ordered by the District Forum to be reimbursed by the appellant bank to the respondent complainant, too, cannot be allowed precisely for the reason that, the decision to approach the said bank for loan accommodation, if any, after voluntarily liquidating the dues of his loan account with the Indian Overseas Bank, was entirely the choice of the complainant. Theretofore, by no cogent reasoning, the appellant bank can be saddled with the said burden.
8. Accordingly, we hold that the order of the District Forum directing the appellant bank to pay to the respondent complainant the amount of Rs. 2,29,600 recovered by the appellant bank from the complainant towards pre-payment charges and the amount of Rs. 2,50,000 towards the alleged Loan Processing Fees charged by the Punjab National Bank from the complainant, cannot be sustained and the same is accordingly, set aside.
9. However, we find that the action of the appellant bank not to furnish the copies of the relevant Circulars/Notifications regarding the enhancement of bank’s PLR/PTLR as ordered by R.B.I., to the complainant when he demanded to verify the correctness of the rate of interest charged by the bank for his loan account, on the plea that those were meant only for internal communication, is nothing but a case of deficiency in service.
10. When the bank has charged enhanced rate of interest on the strength of the relevant condition of the loan agreement, than what has been agreed initially, the customer has a right to know the basis of such enhancement. We failed to understand what is so sacrosanct or secrecy attached to these Circulars/Notifications, that these cannot be divulged to the customer, specially when, in the loan agreement itself, it has been clearly mentioned that since the interest rate of the borrowal account has been linked with Prime Lending Rate, changes if any, in the bank’s PLR/PTLR, shall be conveyed through Press report or publicity through media, or a suitable “Notice” placed in the Banking Hall of the branch and such mode of communication shall be construed as sufficient Notice about the revision effected in the interest rates (Clause “h” of the acceptance letter). This means these communications regarding the change of the interest rates were meant for information to the customers of the bank and as such, the bank cannot refuse to reveal the same to the customer, when so demanded.
11. Accordingly, we direct the appellant bank to pay Rs. 25,000 to the complainant as compensation for deficiency in service along with the litigation cost of Rs. 5,000 (as
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already ordered by the District Forum) within two months from the date of receipt of the copy of this judgment failing which, the entire amount shall carry interest @ 8% per annum from the date of this judgment till realisation. 12. In the result, this appeal is partly allowed and the impugned judgment of the District Forum is hereby modified to the extent as indicated in the foregoing paragraphs. Under the facts and circumstances of the case, we leave the parties to bear their own cost in respect of the present appeal. Send back the original records of the C.P. Case No. 29 of 2007 to the concerned District Forum along with a copy of this judgment. Appeal partly allowed.