Bimla Kashyapa was working with the Haryana government as editor-cum-research Officer. She retired on November 30, 1987, and started drawing a pension. Her basic pension was Rs 11,396 plus admissible allowances till her death on March 7, 2011. Thereafter, the family pension of Rs 6,838 plus admissible allowances was being paid to her husband, M Kashyapa.
Kashyapa's account was with Syndicate Bank's Anand Vihar branch in Delhi. Since he found it difficult to withdraw his monthly pension, he had the account transferred to Punjab & Sind Bank's Anand Vihar branch, which was closer to his residence.
The Haryana government framed the Revised Pension Rules, 2009, under which pensioners prior to the year 2006 became entitled to enhanced basic pension of Rs 13,903. Similarly, there was an increase in the family pension. Kashyapa demanded that the arrears of pension for the period January 1, 2009, to March 7, 2011, and thereafter the family pension should be paid in accordance with pension scheme. Since no heed was paid to his representations, he filed a consumer complaint before the Delhi (East) District Forum against both the banks.
During the course of the hearings, an officer of Syndicate Bank admitted that the arrears had to be paid. The officer later stated that arrears up to December 2014 had been cleared and paid. Later, the remaining arrears till May 2015 were also paid, clearing the entire amount.
Though his primary grievance has been redressed and the complaint stands disposed, the grievance that remains to be decided is with regard to the harassment he had suffered at the hands of the respondents, the cost of the litigation that was thrust upon him and the penal interest on the arrears paid to him.
The grievance was redressed, albeit after the filing of the complaint. Yet, 88-year-old Kashyapa continued the case seeking compensation for the harassment caused to him. As lawyer Sanjeev Nirwani states: "Every day we see the old and aged visiting banks and pleading with bank officers to credit the pension, arrears etc in time, but the officials do not bother about such pleas. If the amounts are credited in time, senior citizens would be saved the harassment in having to pay repeated visits to the bank."
The Forum observed that one branch of Syndicate Bank was blaming another branch for the delay in providing the necessary information to Punjab & Sind Bank for processing the arrears of pension as well as family pension. So, the processing and payment of the arrears had been delayed. The Forum observed that Syndicate Bank had a duty to procure the information expeditiously from its own branch and forward it to Punjab & Sind Bank. But it had not done so, due to which Kashyapa had been harassed. The information was communicated much later, after more than six months, and that too only after the complaint had been filed.
The Forum concluded that the transfer of the pension account while holding back the relevant information relating to the account would constitute a deficiency in service. Hence, the Forum indicted Syndicate Bank for its indifference to the hardships of a 88-year-old senior citizen. The Forum also observed that Punjab & Sind Bank had also been callous and had not bothered to even contest the complaint.
In a judgment dated August 5, 2015, delivered by Poonam Malhotra for the Bench along with presiding officer N A Zaidi, and member Poonam Subhash Gupta, the Forum held both the banks liable to compensate Kashyapa. The Forum awarded Rs 60,000 as interest on delayed payment of the arrears. This amount was bifurcated, such that Syndicate Bank would pay Rs 50,000, while Punjab & Sind Bank would pay Rs 10,000. In addition, compensation and costs were also awarded, with Syndicate Bank having to pay Rs 30,000, and Punjab & Sind Bank to pay Rs 5,000. A period of 45 days was given for compliance of the order and in case of delay, the amount would carry an interest of nine per cent per annum.
The author is a consumer activist