Upholding the orders passed by the district and state commissions, the national consumer disputes redressal commission (NCDRC) has directed HDFC Bank Ltd to pay Rs30,000 compensation and Rs5,000 litigation cost for creating two fixed deposits (FDs), while ignoring the customer's request to foreclose his loan in one instalment.
In an order earlier this month
, the NCDRC bench of Subhash Chandra (presiding member) says, "The foras below have pronounced orders which are detailed and have dealt with all the contentions of the petitioner which have been raised before me in this revision petition. It is also seen that the orders of these fora are based on evidence on record...I find no illegality, infirmity or perversity in the impugned order warranting any interference of this Commission. The present revision petition is, therefore, found to be without merits and is accordingly dismissed."
The case is related to a loan of Rs11 lakh obtained by Amritsar-based Sunita Bali and Parbodh Chander Bali on 23 May 2015 from HDFC Bank on a floating interest rate. The Balis took the loan for the wedding of their son. On 10 July 2015, the Balis approached HDFC Bank to foreclose their loan in one instalment.
However, they alleged that HDFC Bank refused to do so, stating that foreclosure charges and penal interest would apply, and the loan could be closed only in monthly instalments over seven years. They alleged their payment was not accepted in their loan account and instead, two FDs of Rs8 lakh and Rs2 lakh were opened on 10 July 2015 and 11 July 2015, respectively. The Balis further alleged that their loan of Rs10.95 lakh was not foreclosed and instead, on 14 July 2015, the two FDs were amended for Rs8.25 lakh and Rs2.75 lakh.
Around 10 months later, the Balis claimed that they came to know about guidelines of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) that banks cannot charge foreclosure of loans on floating rates. They again approached HDFC Bank for foreclosure and also sent an email on 5 March 2017. However, they alleged there was no response to the request and then approached Amritsar district consumer disputes redressal forum in March 2017. On 18 May 2017, the district forum ordered partially in their favour.
Both the Balis and HDFC Bank approached Punjab state consumer disputes redressal commission, which, vide an order, dismissed the appeals and upheld the ruling of the district forum. The Balis then filed a revision petition before NCDRC.
After hearing the parties, the bench of Mr Chandra observed that the contention of the Balis is that HDFC Bank acted in contravention of the RBI circular whereby the loan, on a floating rate basis by a sole proprietorship firm, cannot be foreclosed without penalty and charges.
HDFC Bank also referred to the RBI circular of 7 May 2014. It contended that the loan was in the name of a proprietorship firm which was not under the ambit of the RBI's guidelines in the circular for any rebate or concession with regard to waiver of foreclosure of the loan account. The Bank claimed it opened the FDs for the Balis for which there was an implied consent and, therefore, it did not act in any coercive manner.
NCDRC noted that the Balis have filed this revision appeal on the same grounds raised before the district forum and the state commission in the appeal. "The concurrent findings on facts of these two foras are based on evidence led by the parties and documents on record. The present revision petition is, therefore, an attempt by the petitioner to urge this Commission to re-assess and re-appreciate the evidence, which cannot be done in revisional jurisdiction. The counsel for the petitioner has failed to show that the findings in the impugned order are perverse."
"The district forum has allowed the complaint and directed the opposite party to adjust the balance outstanding amount without charging any prepayment charges, apart from compensation of Rs30,000 and litigation costs of Rs5,000. The state commission has affirmed this order. In view of the settled proposition of law that where two interpretations of evidence are possible, concurrent findings based on evidence have to be accepted and such findings cannot be substituted in revisional jurisdiction, this petition is liable to fail," the bench says in its order.
(Revision Petition No229 of 2019 Date: 7 July 2023)