New Delhi(Aashish Vashistha): With a view to provide safety to the customers and protecting them from the exploitation of banks, the Supreme Court on Friday directed the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to lay down regulations within six months following the steps that are needed to be taken with respect to the locker facility management. The court also ensured that banks cannot wash off their hands towards their customers for the operation of lockers.
A bench comprising Justices M. M Shantanagoudar and Vineet Saran said that with the advent of globalization, banking institutions have acquired a very significant role in the life of the common man as both international and domestic economic transactions within the country have increased multiple folds. The bench also discussed about the inability of customers to keep their liquid assets at home as "we are steadily moving towards a cashless economy."
"Thus, as is evident from the rising demand for such services, lockers have become an essential service provided by every banking institution. Such services may be availed of by citizens as well as by foreign nationals," the bench further added. "Moreover, due to rapid gains in technology, we are now transitioning from dual key operated lockers to electronically operated lockers," the top court said.
Bank locker facility includes safe deposit lockers which is one of the most important facilities offered by Banks. Lockers are of different sizes and are safe for keeping valuables. The facility provides safety to the locker hirer or joint hirers as no one can operate the locker except them. A customer is completely at the mercy of the bank, which is the more resourceful party, for the protection of their assets.
Kolkata native Amitabha Dasgupta filed an appeal against an order of National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission which forced the court to pass this judgement.
The bench also stated that it is also left open to the RBI to issue suitable rules with respect to the responsibility owed by banks for any loss or damage to the contents of the lockers, so that the controversy on this issue is clarified as well.
Earlier, Dasgupta filed a complaint before District Consumer Forum seeking a direction to United Bank of India to return the seven ornaments that were in the locker; or alternatively, pay ₹3 lakh towards the cost of jewellery, and compensation for damages. After this the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission accepted the State Commission finding that the Consumer Forum has limited jurisdiction to adjudicate on the recovery of the contents of the locker.Both the public and private sector banks offer locker facility. It operates with two keys, one is kept with the bank while the another one is given to the operator.