Decided on May 31,2007

RADHA RANI Appellant
Bank Of Baroda And Anr Respondents


- (1.) HEARD learned Counsel for both the parties and perused the judgment by virtue of which the appellant's complaint for damages, besides recovery of Rs. 1,280 was dismissed as time barred. According to the complainant, she deposited Cheque No. R -001650 dated 17.1.1994 for a sum of Rs. 1,280 with the Bank of Baroda, Shahjahanpur. The said bank sent the cheque in question for clearance to Punjab National Bank, Delhi. However, neither the cheque was received back after clearance nor there was any communication between the Bank of Baroda or the Punjab National Bank for three years and six months. The complainant woke from her sleep three years and six months after when she sent a notice on 14.8.1997 to the Bank of Baroda claiming back her money of the cheque. The said notice was not replied nor any communication made.
(2.) OBVIOUSLY the complaint of the complainant was barred by the provisions of Section -24(a) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 which provides that the District Forum shall not admit a complaint unless it is filed within two years from the date on which the cause of action has arisen. In the instant case the complainant regularly visited the Bank of Baroda every month and had enquired about the clearance of her cheque but, as pleaded by her, the bank authorities always conveyed to her that it had not come back. This exercise went on for a few months and then there was a long silence between the complainant and the Bank of Baroda. As said above, the complainant served the respondent/bank with a notice of August 14, 1997 i.e. about three years and six months after the cheque had been deposited.
(3.) IT is significant to note that the law of limitation has a sanctity behind it and it is to the effect that all issues particularly, the petty one must come to an end after a reasonable period. There is another aspect of the matter and it is that the law does not help those who slumber upon their rights for long. A man of ordinary prudence is expected to be vigilant of his rights and must move to stake his or her claim within a reasonable period. If one forgets to assert his rights within a reasonable period particularly when it is stipulated he loses his claim after the period comes to an end. Similar seems to be the fate of the case in hand where the complainant did not rise to any occasion to claim money of her cheque for nearly three years and six months. It appears that her right to recover money has gone into oblivion - perhaps on account of the lapse of time. As said above the law would come to the rescue of only those who are vigilant, prudent and alert in staking claim for their rights. The contention of the learned Counsel for the appellant is that the cause of action would be deemed to have arisen when it was finally communicated to the complainant that the cheque had not been cleared. We are afraid the contention has no merit. As an intelligent person the complainant was expected to have waited for a few months for clearance of her cheque but may be on account of the forgetfulness she lost track of her right and the money both. The crux is that by lapse of time the claim became time barred and so was barred by two years limitation the complaint filed by the complainant. In the result the appeal fails and is hereby dismissed. Mr. Vinod Shankar Chaubey, Member - Respectfully I beg to differ with the judgment delivered by Hon'ble President and concurred by my learned Brother Hon'ble Sri Roop Singh. 2. There is no dispute that there is relation of 'consumer' and 'service provider' between the complainant and the Bank of Baroda. It was the duty on the part of Bank of Baroda, Shahjahanpur to get the cheque cleared from Punjab National Bank and the Bank of Baroda has admitted that they have sent several reminders to the Punjab National Bank, Delhi for clearance of cheque. The Bank of Baroda in its written statement has mentioned that they could not get payment from Punjab National Bank, hence no payment was made to the complainant. If the payment was not received from Punjab National Bank and if no reply from Punjab National Bank was available then they should have asked them to send back the cheque so that the consumer could have requested the person who issued the cheque to renew the cheque or if it was lost in transit or lost by any of the banks she could after having non -payment certificate from the banks, request the concerned person to issue a new cheque but all this most established procedure according to the rules could not be followed due to lapse on the part of Bank of Baroda, hence a grave negligence and lapse is on the part of Bank of Baroda who very leisurely and bluntly say that after much correspondence they could not get the payment from Punjab National Bank. The height of negligence, lapse and obstinacy on the part of Bank that they never tried to inform the consumer about the fate of the cheque and after sufficient lapse of time after issuing legal notice the lapse gave cause of action to the consumer who has sought redressal of her grievance under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. 3. This question may also arise that from what point of time the cause of action will arise. The complainant is consumer of Bank of Baroda. She is having a Khata in Bank of Baroda and till this relation subsists till her Khata is alive she has got every right to press the bank for the deposit the money of her Khata. A cheque issued validly is negotiable instrument just like currency notes, bank drafts, etc. and the service provider bank is under very obligation to make the account properly and see that the money, cheque and bank drafts are deposited in the khata and is properly secured. This obligation has not be fulfilled by the Bank of Baroda. The Khata of the lady continues and her right to seek redressal is certainly not barred by limitation in any way. 4. The law of limitation is a procedural law. It cannot override the substantive law. Its importance is certainly there where the law of prescription is applicable i.e. if a person is the authorized possession of a property for a prescribed period then the person in adverse possession after the expiry of prescribed period may seek declaration of right and title in his favour but where a customer or consumer of the bank desposits money or cheque in the service provider bank, the bank charges service charge. It also gives some interest and invest the money for business. In that case the bank is not in adverse possession of the money hence the law of limitation is alien and foreign to this case and that is absolutely not applicable.;

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