Decided on October 26,2006

N Gurumurthy Respondents


- (1.)THE opposite party in the complaint is the appellant. The respondent -complainant filed the complaint for recovery of Rs. 3,000 with interest and compensation of Rs. 50,000.
(2.)THE case of the complainant is as follows:
The complainant availed the opposite party's safe deposit locker facility for keeping his valuables with locker No. 22 for three years commencing from 28.11.1997 to 27.11.2000. Since the complainant wanted to have a bigger size locker facility from the opposite party from 14.5.1999, he availed another locker from the opposite party bearing No. C5 -42. The opposite party agreed to let in the said locker for three years commencing from 14.5.1999 to 13.5.2001. The opposite party collected a sum of Rs. 6,752 towards rent for three years. The renewal of the above said locker facility with the opposite party is only on the expiry of period. The rent for letting the safe deposit locker is payable in advance for a fixed period. In the event of complainant's unwillingness to have it renewed, the opposite party has no other option except to terminate the agreement on the end of the day. Though the lease for locker C5 -42 would expire on 13.5.2002, on 8.10.2001 for the purpose of administrative convenience, the opposite party had changed the number allotted for the safe deposit locker into 581. The complainant never opened the safe deposit locker No. 581 with opposite party at any point of time. When the opposite party issued receipt on 8.10.2001, it was revealed that it was due to administrative convenience, he had changed the locker number from C5 -42 to 581. The complainant came to know that the opposite party had debited a sum of Rs. 6,750 from his savings account towards renewal of lease dated 8.10.2001. The complainant never sought for renewal of safe deposit locker No. C5 -42 before the expiry date, i.e. 13.5.2002. The opposite party abruptly terminated the duration of the lease without any intimation in advance, on the expiry of 877 days. The opposite party took the balance amount of rent Rs. 1,345 for the unexpired period of 218 days. The opposite party is liable to repay the said amount. When the complainant contacted the opposite party in person, he was informed that the unexpired period of 218 days would be carried forward in the subsequently renewed lease dated 8.10.2001. While renewing the lease dated 8.10.2001 which was agreed to be renewed only after three years, on request of renewal if any from the complainant, the opposite party disregarded the agreed terms and conditions. On 4.10.2004, four days before the expiry of lease dated 8.10.2001 the opposite party unilaterally renewed for one year's duration without the complainant's knowledge and consent and unauthorisedly withdrawn Rs. 3,000 from his S.B. account towards one year's rent. The rent for one year is exorbitant. Had the complainant been informed of the shorter duration of the lease and the amount, in advance he would not have opted for the opposite party's services and he would have opted it somewhere. Therefore, the opposite party is liable to repay the said amount of Rs. 3,000. The act of opposite party is nothing but unfair. The opposite party deducted a sum of Rs. 306 towards service tax. The opposite party is liable to repay the said amount to the complainant. When the complainant orally requested the opposite party through a letter either to increase the duration of the lease dated 4.10.2004 as it was done on earlier occasion or to accept the surrender of lease and to repay a sum of Rs. 3,000 the opposite party evaded to increase the duration of lease or repay the amount of Rs. 3,000. Finally, the complainant sent the letter dated 13.4.2005 with intimation of surrendering his safe deposit locker. The complainant never opened any safe deposit locker No. 581 with the opposite party, but it is the locker No. C5 -42 for which the opposite party had given the number 581 during the renewal on 8.10.2001. The complainant issued legal notices dated 10.8.2005 and 21.9.2005 to the opposite party calling upon him to pay damages for his mental agony. The opposite party issued reply with false allegations. It is the sale deposit locker No. C5 -42 that has been renewed on 8.10.2001 even before the expiry of three years. The deficiency in service on the part of the opposite party caused mental agony to the complainant for which he is entitiled to claim damages from the opposite party to the tune of Rs. 50,000. Hence, the complaint is filed.

(3.)THE case of the opposite party is as follows:
The complainant has suppressed material facts and has filed the complaint. The complainant is having S.B. account with the opposite party and as such availed locker facility bearing locker No. 22 on 28.11.1997 for three years. The complainant had another locker No. C5 -42 for three years from 14.5.1999 expiring on 14.5.2002. Under Clause 4 of the condition "in order to terminate the lease written notice to give up possession must be given one week prior to the termination of any period of the letting of the safe with its keys have to be surrendered to the bank". The lease of the safe shall be considered renewed after agreed period until the same is surrendered and the key is returned. The locker No. C5 -42 was due for renewal on 14.5.2002. The complainant did not surrender the locker nor gave any notice of his intention to close the locker account by handing over the key of the locker to the bank along with letter of surrender due on 14.5.2002. However, the complainant surrendered his locker on 22.5.2002 by handing over the keys. The opposite party denies the allegation that the locker No. C5 -42 was changed into locker No. 581 for administrative convenience. The complainant has surrendered locker No. 22 and has hired new larger locker No. 581 on 8.10.2001 for a rent of Rs. 6,750 expiring on 7.10.2004. The rent of Rs. 6,750 was collected from the complainant for locker No. 581 and the same does not represent the alternative locker C5 -42. The complainant was concurrently having two locker facilities viz., C5 -42 which was surrendered on 22.5.2002 and locker No. 581 which was provided under separate agreement. The complainant did not give any notice of his intention to surrender the locker No. 581 one week in advance. Since the opposite party did not receive any notice or intimation presuming that the hirer intended to renew the lease, the bank renewed the lease and recovered rent for one year i.e. Rs. 3,000. The above renewal has been done in terms of Clause 4 of the conditions of the lease. The opposite party renewed the lease for a period of one year invoking the condition in Clause 4. It is open to the complainant to come to the bank and surrendered the keys with letter before the expiry of the lease which he did not do. The Government of India announced that Service Tax of 10.20 % shall be collected on the rent and the opposite party has only complied with the statutory obligation of collecting service charges i.e. Rs. 306. The complainant surrendered the locker No. 581 by sending the key with the letter dated 13.4.2005. The opposite party received the same only on 11.6.2005. The question of refund of rent does not arise as the bank has collected only one year's rent in advance. The renewal of lease for locker No. 581 for a period of one year is based on the complainant's willingness and the same is evidenced by the conduct of the complainant in operating the locker after the expiry of lease. There is no deficiency in service on the part of the bank.

No oral evidence was let in by the parties. Exs. C1 to C11 were marked on the side of the complainant and Exs. R1 to R15 were marked on the side of the opposite party. On consideration of documentary evidence, the District Forum has held that the complainant is a consumer. As regards the compensation, the District Forum has awarded a sum of Rs. 4,000 towards unfair trade practice and deficiency in service and the complaint was dismissed in respect of other reliefs. Aggrieved by the said order, the opposite party has come forward with this appeal.

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