NCDRC Asks Postal Dept, Senior Officials To Refund Rs24.91 Lakh Misappropriated from RD Account
Moneylife Digital Team 13 June 2023
While confirming an order passed by the state commission, the national consumer disputes redressal commission (NCDRC) directed the department of posts, chief postmaster general of Mumbai, senior superintendent of the post-office for Mumbai West division and senior postmaster from Mahim post-office, to refund Rs24.91 lakh jointly and severally misappropriated from the recurring deposit (RD) account of the complainant.
 
In an order issued last week, the bench of justice Deepa Sharma (presiding member) says, "...the state commission has rightly reached to the conclusion that appellants are jointly and severally liable for refunding the misappropriated amount of Rs24,91,382. Since the agent of the post-office had not deposited the monthly instalments within time, and for that purpose, the complainant needed to pay Rs8,830 as a penalty, the complainant is also entitled to a refund of the same. The findings of the state commission are based on cogent evidence and there is nothing on record to show that findings are perverse or illegal."
 
Mumbai-based colonel (Col) (retd) Narendra Nath Suri and his son Rahul had opened an RD account in the post-office. In November 2014, he was informed of some irregularities in his account. However, when he contacted the concerned officer in the post-office, he was told that his account had been adequately maintained. On inquiry, he learnt that a savings bank (SB) account was opened in the post-office in his name and in the name of his wife, Kusum and son Rahul.  
 
Almost 50% of the amount lying in his RD account was diverted to the fake SB account and from 22nd August to 26 August 2013, cash was withdrawn from this account.  
 
Col Suri alleged that the SB account was opened based on fake documents in collusion with the staff of the post-office. He submitted that, at the time of withdrawal of the amount from the SB account, it was essential to produce the passbook; however, the post-office allowed the amount to be withdrawn in cash without the passbook. He further alleged that from July 2014, his small saving agent had not invested the monthly instalments, so he was required to pay an amount of Rs8,830 towards the penalty. He also alleged that the post-office had misappropriated his money and he filed the complaint for a refund of the misappropriated money and penalty amount charged illegally.
 
The postal department contended that it reported to the Mahim police station the misappropriation of money from the RD account of Col Suri. It submitted that one Umesh Doshi, an agent for the small savings, had kept Col Suri's passbooks and chequebook.
 
"PV Parekh, a messenger of Col Suri, had withdrawn the amount from the savings bank account as per the authority given to Mr Parekh by Col Suri. The signatures of Col Suri were verified by the concerned officer of the post-office at the time of opening of the savings bank account. All these documents are in the custody of the police and a letter on 24 June 2015 had been given to the police seeking custody of those documents for sending the same to the handwriting expert," the postal department submitted. 
 
It further submitted that although Col Suri made the allegations against Mr Doshi but the agent has not been made a party in the complaint and, as per a letter written by the post office, the director of small savings had cancelled the agency of Mr Doshi.
 
The postal department contended that its post-office had not committed any irregularity or had been careless or negligent in handling the complainant's accounts. "It was Col Suri who had reposed blind faith in the agent and allowed him to keep his passbook. All the rules and procedures are duly followed by the postal bank in maintaining the accounts."
 
After hearing both sides, NCDRC observed that the postal department accepted that Rs24.91 lakh, the amount deposited, had been withdrawn from the account of Col Suri by Mr Parekh and not by the account holder. "It is alleged by the postal department that Mr Parekh was duly authorised by Col Suri. However, there is no evidence record to prove this fact. A police complaint had also been filed by Col Suri regarding the fraud being played upon him by the post-office in connivance with Mr Doshi, the agent of the post-office."
 
However, the postal department denied that Mr Doshi was their agent but was an independent person who was working as an agent for Col Suri. The bench noted, "It is not in dispute that he was an authorised agent of the national savings scheme (NSS) working for the post-office. Therefore, to say that he was not a post-office agent would be incorrect. It is a settled proposition of law that the principal is liable for the act of his agent, as held by the Supreme Court in the matter of Pradeep Kumar vs Post Master General and Others (2022). NSS had appointed an authorised agent for the post-office only."
 
While dismissing the appeal, NCDRC directed the postal department and its senior officials to jointly and severally refund the misappropriated amount of Rs24,91,382 and the penalty of Rs8830 collected from Col Suri. 
 
(First Appeal No690 of 2018          Date 5 June 2023)
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