Oral Order: (B.N. Rao Nalla, President)
1). This is an appeal filed under Section 15 of the Consumer Protection Act by the Complainant praying this Commission to set aside the impugned order dated 27.01.2014 made in CC 24 of 2012 on the file of the DISTRICT FORUM – III, Hyderabad.
2). For the sake of convenience, the parties are described as arrayed in the complaint before the District Forum.
3). The case of the complainant, in brief, is that he availed a loan amount of Rs.10,00,000/- by pledging 300 shares of M/s Jindal Steel and Power Co. Ltd on 03.05.2008 with interest @ 14% pa from the opposite parties vide Account bearing No. 171001 repayable within a period of 24 months through ECS cheque payments. But, the opposite parties unilaterally raised the rate of interest to 20% on 11.11.2009. Despite discharge of the entire loan vide cheque bearing No. 670058 as per the Statement of Account dated 21.4.2009, the opposite parties failed to return the shares pledged with them, while demanding payment of Rs.1200/- towards cheque bounce charges after a lapse of two years. The opposite parties had sold his shares realizing a sum of Rs.1,534/- to adjust towards the alleged due loan. Non-return of pledged shares even after clearing the loan and depriving him of an opportunity to trade in the shares caused not only financial loss and it amounts to deficiency in service. Hence the complaint to direct the opposite parties to pay a sum of Rs.2 lakhs towards loss sustained due to non-trading of shares, to pay a sum of Rs.50,000/- compensation for mental agony and costs.
4). The opposite parties opposed the above complaint by way of written version, while admitting availing of loan amount of Rs.10 lakhs by the complainant from them by pledging the shares in question with interest @ 14% pa and it was raised to 20% due to liquidity crunch and it was informed to the complainant vide letter dated 01.11.2008. Two EC cheques were dishonored and due to which the complainant paid onlyRs.7,253/-and did not pay the penal charges of Rs.1,251.69 ps despite several requests and legal notice dated 23.06.2001 and hence they sold three pledged shares and transferred the remaining pledged shares to his account number on 30.09.2011. There is no deficiency in service on their part. Hence prayed to dismiss the complainat.
5) During the course of enquiry before the District Forum, in order to prove his case, the complainant filed his evidence affidavit and got marked Ex.A1 to A-5 and the Opposite Parties have filed an Evidence Affidavit and no documents were marked. The complainant filed his written arguments. The opposite parties have filed a Memo adopting the Evidence Affidavit as written arguments.
6) The District Forum, after considering the material available on record, dismissed the complaint.
7) Aggrieved by the said order, the complainant preferred this appeal before this Commission.
8). Both sides have advanced their arguments reiterating the contents in the appeal grounds, rebuttal thereof along with written arguments of the respondents.
9) The points that arise for consideration are,
(i) Whether the impugned order as passed by the District Forum suffers from any error or irregularity or whether it is liable to be set aside, modified or interfered with, in any manner?
(ii) To what relief ?
10). Point No.1 :
There is no dispute that the appellant/complainant has availed a loan amount of Rs.10,00,000/- by pledging 300 shares of M/s Jindal Steel and Power Co. Ltd on 03.05.2008 with interest @ 14% pa from the opposite parties vide Account bearing No. 171001 repayable within a period of 24 months through ECS cheque payments. There is also no dispute that the rate of interest was raised from 14% pa to 20% PA due to liquidity crunch and it was informed to the appellant/ complainant.
11). The District Forum observed that as per the RBI Guidelines, the NBFCs are permitted to revise their interest rates and it was also intimated to the appellant/complainant enhancing the rate of interest from 14% pa to 20% vide Ex.A1 letter from November, 2008 and further as per Ex.A2, Statement of Account, for the period from 01.04.2008 to 31.03.2009, the appellant is due a sum of Rs.1,236/- and Ex. B3 letter dated 23.09.2011 demanding payment of Rs.1,252/- towards cheque bouncing charges, as per the terms and conditions of the agreement, in the months of February and March, 2009 and there is no evidence on record to show that he paid the same and hence the respondents/opposite parties sold three pledged shares realizing a sum of Rs.1,540.80 ps as evidenced in Ex.A4 and came to the conclusion that there is no deficiency in service on their part.
12). Counsel for the appellant/complainant argued that the District Forum failed to appreciate that Ex. A2, i.e., Statement for the period from 1.4.2008 to 31.03.2009, in which, the respondents have demanded the total loan amount due and there was no mention as to the due of ECS charges though the said charges belong to the month of March, 2009 and further Ex.A3 is the letter demanding ECS charges, i.e, dt. 23.09.2009, i.e., after clearance of the total amount due.
13). On the other hand, counsel for the respondents/opposite parties argued that Ex.A-2, Financial Transaction Statement for the period from 01.04.2008 to 31.03.2009 discloses that the appellant/complainant is payable an amount of Rs.1,236/-. Further, he argued that the appellant/complainant had got bounced the February, 2009 ECS cheque payment of interest for an amount of Rs.6487.68 and further due interest for the month of March, 2009 for Rs.764.46. The appellant/complainant issued cheque for Rs.7252.46 ps as disclosed in the financial transaction statement and the said ECS cheque dated 03.04.2009 was presented but the same was bounced on 08.04.2009. Since the appellant had got bounced two cheques he was not only liable to pay the cheque bounce charges of Rs.1,000/- (Rs.500/-each) but also penal charges of Rs.251.69 ps. But the appellant paid only Rs.7252.24 ps but refused to pay cheque bounce and penal charges of Rs.1251.69 ps and hence they demanded said charges vide Ex.A3.
14). Ex.A3 is the demand letter for an amount of Rs.1,252/- is dated 23.09.2011, but, not 23.09.2009 as argued by the counsel for the appellant and thereafter written letter dated 30.09.2011 for closing the account. It is true that there was no mention as to the cheque bounce charges and penal interest charges in Ex.A2 Statement for the period from 01.04.2008 to 31.03.2009. Whereas, the respondents/opposite parties vehemently argued that one cheque in the month of February, 2009 and another cheque in the month of March, 2009 were dishonoured. However, the dishonoring of cheques was not reflected in the said statement. Further, the cheque bearing No. 670058 said to have been issued to the respondents was not reflected in the Statement. Ex.A5 letter dated 05.10.2009 said to have been written by the appellant/complainant discloses that he issued blank cheque prior to this date. Ex.A3, demand letter, dated 23.09.2011 reveals that ECS cheques were dishonored in the month of February and March,but, they did not reveal the cheque numbers, the date of presentation of cheque, the date of dishonour, the amount of the cheques and the proof thereof. From the above facts, it is to be deduced that the respondents used the empty cheque after a gap of two years and sold the three shares for an amount of Rs.1534.47 ps on 26.09.2011 in lieu of dishonour of cheques while keeping the shares with them for about two years, which amounts to deficiency in service.
15). After considering the foregoing facts and circumstances and also having regard to the contentions raised on both sides, this Commission is of the view that there is deficiency in service on the part of the respondents for not returning the shares for about two years and for using the cheque after two years for which the respondents are liabl
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e to pay the said amount of Rs.1534.47 ps with interest @ 9% pa from 26.09.2011 and further to pay Rs.20,000/- for non-trading of shares due to holding the same with the respondents though paid the entire loan amount , Rs.10,000/- towards compensation for mental agony and costs of Rs.5,000/-. 16). Point No. 2 : In the result, the appeal is allowed in part setting aside the impugned order dated 27.01.2014 in CC 24 of 2012 passed by the District Forum III, Hyderabad and consequently, the complaint is allowed in part directing the respondents/ opposite parties to pay the said amount of Rs.1534.47 ps with interest @ 9% pa from 26.09.2011 and further to pay Rs.20,000/- for non-trading of shares due to holding the same with the respondents, Rs.10,000/- towards compensation for mental agony and costs of Rs.5,000/- to the appellant/complainant. Time for compliance four weeks.