Decided on January 30,2009

Pratima Pal Respondents


- (1.)THIS appeal arises out of the judgment passed by the District Forum, 24 -Parganas (South), on 31.7.2008, in its case No. 208/2007, wherein the learned Forum below has allowed the complaint on contest and directed the OP -Bank to pay an amount of Rs. 1,70,000 along with an interest @ 6% p.a. from the date of withdrawal of the money till it credited to the Savings Bank Account of the Complainant and credit bearing Account No. 10786 within one month from the date of passing the judgment. The Forum has also awarded cost of Rs. 10,000 in favour of the Complainant and directed the OP to pay the cost amount to the Complainant within a period of one month from the date of the judgment.
(2.)THE brief facts of the case of the Complainant before the Forum below were that she had a savings bank account along with her husband bearing No. 10786 lying with the Allahabad Bank of B.B. Chatterjee Road Branch. On 19.5.2007 it was noticed by Gopi Nath Pal, the husband of the Complainant that Rs. 1,70,000 was withdrawn from her account fictitiously while he went to the Bank for updating his passbook. On 14.3.2007 the passbook was updated and the Complainant issued a cheque bearing No. 096067 in favour of La Martinier School. On the said date Rs. 1,78,574 remained in the account. It is noticed that on 30.3.2007 Rs. 50,000 was withdrawn by cheaque bearing No.107256 in favour of Das Enterprise. On 31.3.2007 Rs. 60,000 was withdrawn through cheque No.107259 infavour of A.Pal, on 4.4.2007 an amount of Rs. 60,000 was withdrawn vide cheque No.107258 in favour of Das Enterprise. The chequebook issued by the Bank in her favour contained of 10 cheques bearing Nos. 096061 to 096070. It came to her notice that on 15.3.2007 somebody received a cheque book in the name of Gopinath Pal and Pratima Pal by forging their signatures. The said person did not use any cheque leaf but used requisition slip and took another chequebook from the Bank in their name and using those cheaque leaves withdrew the afore said amount in three transactions fraudulently. As soon as it came to the notice of the Complainant and her husband they got the matter to the notice of the Manager and the Manager showed them the encashed cheque in the computer, but they denied their signatures. The Complainant and her husband could not understand how it was done and how the cheques were issued without proper verification. The Complainant has stated that while they went to withdraw Rs. 1,000 on 12.3.2007 they had to sign thrice on the cheque for verification. According to the Complainant all the signatures were forged and the same are not their signatures. The matter was informed to the Zonal Office, Vigilence Department and the Local Police but with no redress. Hence the Complainant filed the complaint before the District Forum.
(3.)BEING dissatisfied by the above - mentioned judgment the OP -Appellant has preferred the present appeal before this Commission contending that there is no doubt that the Respondent had one joint savings bank account along with her husband in the Appellant's bank. At the time of opening the bank account the bank gave authority to the account holders to disburse amount on the signatures either of the account holders individually. The Appellant has admitted that on 14.3.2007 the credit balance in the said account stood at Rs. 1,78,574, but on 30.3.2007, 31.3.2007 and 4.4.2007 issuing cheques no -107256, 107259 and 107258 an amount of Rs. 50,000,60,000 and 50,000 were withdrawn from the bank. On 30.3.2007 and 4.4.2007 Das Enterprise withdrew the cash and on 31.3.2007 one A.Pal withdrew the cash, but the Appellants are not liable for such transaction. The learned Counsel for the Appellant has submitted that on 15.3.2007 an application was made by the account holders through a bearer requesting the bank for issuance of a cheque book against the savings bank account number and the Appellant delivered the cheque book whose signature was attested by the account holders. Thereafter on 22.3.2007 the bank issued another cheque book containing 10 pages and the same was issued on the strength of the requisition slip duly signed by the account holders with the attestation of the signature of the authorized bearer. Before issuance of the cheque book an enquiry was made by the concerned officials of the bank and on 15.3.2007 the bearer with the request letter informed the concerned official that the account holder has sent him to collect one cheque book of ten leaves without production of the requisition slip which was not readily available with the account holder. The Appellant has argued that the said bearer further informed the bank officials of the Appellant that the Respondent was in urgent need to have another cheque book containing 10 leaves on the ground that the previous one containing 10 leaves had already been issued to the different payees as post -dated cheques. Therefore, the bank official of the Appellant -1 having no doubt with a view to render effective service has issued the cheque. As there was no deficiency in service on the part of the Bank, the Appellant is not liable to pay the amount to the Respondent as directed by the Forum below as the learned Forum has erred in holding its view that in connivance with the Bank officials the miscreants have done this mischief. According to the Appellants the judgment passed by the Forum below is illegal, improper and liable to be set aside and the Appellants have prayed for allowing the present appeal.
We have carefully gone through the record and it appears to us that the Respondent had a joint savings bank account with her husband bearing No.10786, which was opened on 4.1.1980 and their specimen signatures were taken in the signature card of the bank. It is an admitted factthat on 14.3.2007 the credit balance in the said account stood at Rs. 1,78,574. On 19.5.2007 it came to the notice of the husband of the Respondent that a large amount was withdrawn from their joint account. We have noticed that it is an admitted fact that on 30.3.2007 and amount of Rs. 50,000 was withdrawn through a cheque 107256 in favour of Das Enterprise, on 31.3.2007 Rs. 60,000 was withdrawn through a cheque No. 107259 in favour of A. Pal and on 4.4.2007 an amount of Rs. 60,000 was withdrawn in favour of Das Enterprise vide cheque No. 107258. But it is evident from the evidence that on 15.3.2007 somebody withdrew a cheque book on behalf of Pratima Pal and Gopinath Pal. Thereafter by producing the requisition slip of the said cheque book another cheque book was withdrawn in the name of Pratima Pal by a bearer by practising fraud on 22.3.2007and from the said cheque book by using three cheques bearing Nos. 107356, 107259 and 107258 Rs. 1,70,000 was withdrawn from the Bank by other person and the Complainant -Respondent was defrauded It is curious to us that how the bank issued one cheque book on 15.3.2007 against an application and without production of any requisition slip. On 15.3.2007 the bank issued the cheque book containing ten leaves bearing No. 106691to 106700 and on22.3.2007 the bank issued another cheque book containing ten leaves bearing No. 107251 to 107260. But at the time of encashment of the above -mentioned three cheques the bank officials were not careful and vigilant as it did not observe that the cheque book which was delivered on 15.3.2007, no pages have been used by the account holders and for withdrawal of the amount three leaves were used from the cheque book which was delivered on 22.3.2007. We have carefully compared the signature of the requisition slip with the signature card, and it is clear to us that the signature in the requisition slip was forged. We have noticed that a new cheque book was issued by the bank authority without taking proper care and verification of the signature of their customer and it is clear that the full signatures in the two documents differ from each other to a great extent and it cannot be similar with the signature card. Regarding the three cheques the signatures of those cheques also are not similar to the signature in the signature card. Therefore, it can safely be said that the signature of Pratiam Pal and Gopinath Pal were forged in the cheque leaves, which were obtained by prasticing fraud upon the Bank. Being custodian of money of the customer the Bank should be very cautious in making payment. Generally where the signature differs, they hardly make payment, but in the case in hand when the cheque book containing ten leaves bearing No. 106691 to 106700 were not exhausted how on the basis of the requisition slip and letter another cheque book was issued by the bank officials. Again it is curious to us that another cheque book was issued within seven days without verifying the signatures of the actual account holders. Three pages of the later cheque book were issued in favour of the actual account holders whose signatures were forged. It is the common system to use the leaves of the cheque book serially according to its number, but in the instant case three pages of the cheque book were used haphazardly as on 31.3.2007 cheque No. 107259 was enchased and on 4.4.2007 cheque No. 107258 was used. The explanation of the bank regarding issuance of cheque book for the second time on 22.3.2007 is that it has been stated by the bearer that post -dated cheques were issued and further cheque book was required, is no leg to stand upon. The learned Forum has rightly observed that the customer/Respondent cannot beheld liable for the fraud practised upon the Bank and the Respondent is entitled to get amount deposited with the Bank.

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