| Final Order / Judgement
Complaint filed on:30.01.2023
BEFORE THE DISTRICT CONSUMER DISPUTES REDRESSAL COMMISSION AT BANGALORE (URBAN)
DATED 17TH DAY OF NOVEMBER 2023
M.S.W, LL.B., PGDCLP
Aged about 75 years,
No.3, 5th Cross, UAS Layout,
RMV II Stage,
Bengaluru 560 094.
Principal General Manager,
Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited,
Bengaluru 560 001.
Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited,
BSNL, RT Nagar, Telephone Exchange, Bengaluru 560 032.
(Sri.Prakash Rao K., Advocate)
- The complaint has been filed under Section 35 of C.P.Act (hereinafter referred as an Act) against the OP directing the Ops to forthwith refund the deposit of Rs.2,000/- together with interest @ 20% p.a., from 14.02.2020 till the date of refund along with compensation of Rs.10,000/- for the waste of precious time of the complainant, resources, in addition to causing utmost mental agony, hardships and avoidable harassment by severe breach of contract, breach of trust and utter deficiency and negligence in service and also pleased to pass appropriate orders directing the OP to compensate towards litigation costs.
- The case set up by the complainant in brief is as under:-
The complainant has made an initial deposit of Rs.2,000/- on 28.03.2002 for taking his land line connection No.080 23544618. The said line was surrendered with effect from 14.02.2020, vide his letter dated 29.01.2020. Inspite of his repeated reminders the OP has not refunded the deposit amount. He has sent a letter on 27.01.2020. Inspite of his repeated request the OP has neither refunded the amount nor made any response. Again he has sent an email reminder on 20.02.2020 to the PMG. Due to the utter silence from the OP he has sent another mail reminder on 25.02.2020 and various other officials in BSNL. Finally a show cause notice dated 17.07.2020 was sent by this complainant via mail to MD, BSNL, but the BNSL failed to refund the deposit amount till date inspite of its legal obligation to do so. He has filed this complaint within the limitation period, since the cause of action arose on 17.07.2020 from the date of issue of show cause notice, the period from 15.03.2020 till 28.02.2022 shall stand excluded for the purposes of limitation. Hence the complainant has filed this complaint.
- In response to the notice, OP appears and filed their detailed version. It is the case of the OP that the complaint is not maintainable either in law or on facts and the same is liable to be thrashed at the limine. The very complaint is speculative in nature, bereft of merits, lacks bonafide and requires to be dismissed.
- There is no cause of action against this OP and even otherwise also it is illegal, vexatious and created for the purpose of unduly harassing the government machinery. The prayer sought by the complainant is incompatible and looking from any angle the complaint is liable to be dismissed against this OP.
- It is further case of the OP that they are the BSNL which is under the ministry of telecommunication, government of India enterprise. Presently it has been incorporated as public sector Corporation doing sovereign function to the public at large. The statement of finalization of the subscriber was made and SNP was completed on 05.08.2020 for pending dues of Rs.1,218/-. The outstanding amount of Rs.1,218/- was adjusted from deposit and refundable amount of Rs.1,782/- is finalized. It is one of the condition to provide bank details to make NEFT payment. The complainant till today has not furnished the particulars of bank details. Hence the complaint is liable to be dismissed, as there is no deficiency of service on the part of this OP.
- The Ops have further admitted about the deposit of Rs.2,000/- by the complainant for obtaining landline connection and it was surrendered on 14.12.2020. After surrender of the land line the Ops have not refunded the deposited amount inspite of various correspondences and which leads to filing of this complaint has no legal relevancy and legal leg to stand. Hence OP prays for dismissal of complaint with cost for dragging the government machinery to the court of law for no fault of them.
- The complainant has also filed a rejoinder to the version filed by the OP stating that there is a perfect cause of action for him to file this complaint as there was an utter deficiency in service as the OP have miserably failed to refund the deposit amount inspite of the fact that it is legally duty bound to refund the same immediately after the surrender of telephone line in terms of his speed post letter dated 27.01.2020, which was sent to OP on 29.01.2020. The request of this complainant was followed by several reminders including to none other than the MD of the BSNL and other senior officials starting with his email dated 20.02.2020 ending with his show cause notice dated 07.07.2020 which was sent by email.
- It is further contention taken by the complainant that the OP being highly lethargic, inefficient and indifferent to its customers as experienced by the complainant himself and also as indicated by its annual loss of Rs.15,499.53 crores for 2019-20 and Rs.7441.12 crores for the year 20-2021.
- In addition to this the complainant has also lodged an online complaint with BSNL on 07.07.2020, but without any action whatsoever. The contention taken by the OP that they are doing sovereign function is irrelevant. The complainant has specifically denied that he was due Rs.1,218/-. The complainant has given more than adequate time to disconnect the line with effect from 14.02.2020. Therefore this complainant is in nowhere responsible or liable to pay any charges after the above said date. This complainant though not received any bills from BSNL for February and March 2020 he has paid generously the said bills of Rs.595/- online on 31.03.2020. The OP have not produced any supporting documents to state that this complainant is due Rs.1,218/-. The OP had a malafide intention of not returning the deposit amount, though the amount is a peanut and insignificant. This complainant has filed this complaint as a matter of principle of not allowing such entities to pocket the legitimate dues to its customers and secondly in the public interest and as much as if the public do not take such entities especially being a government undertaking to task, it will jeopardize the interest of public also. This complainant spent days of his precious time and resources for recovering this small amount and hence prays for awarding the compensation and cost and also prays to impose punitive damages u/s 14(1)(d) of the CP Act of 1986 as a deterrent in conducting themselves in the same manner again and again in future.
- The complainant has filed his affidavit evidence and relies on 13 documents. Affidavit evidence of official of OP has been filed and OP relies on 01 document.
- No oral argument is advanced by both the parties. Perused the written arguments filed by both the parties.
- The following points arise for our consideration as are:-
- Whether the complainant proves deficiency of service on the part of OP?
- Whether the complainant is entitled to relief mentioned in the complaint?
- What order?
- Our answers to the above points are as under:
Point No.1: Affirmative
Point No.2: Affirmative in part
Point No.3: As per final orders
- Point No.1 AND 2: These two points are inter related and hence they have taken for common discussion. We have perused the allegations made in the complaint, version, affidavit evidence, written arguments and documents.
- It is pertinent to note here that the complainant has sent the bill issued by the OP for an amount of Rs.274.06 ps., for the period from 01.08.2020 to 04.08.2020 bill dated NIL received by the complainant on 19.10.2023 through email. The complainant has sent this bill with the Memo to this commission through post and it was received by this commission on 10.11.2023 after the complaint is posted for orders on 31.10.2023.
- It is undisputed fact that the complainant has taken land line connection by depositing the initial refundable amount of Rs.2,000/- dated 28.03.2002 for his land line number 08023544618. The said land line was surrendered with effect from 14.02.2020. The complainant has sent a letter through speed post for surrendered his telephone on 29.01.2020. Inspite of his repeated demands and reminders the Ops have not refunded the initial deposit amount of Rs.2,000/-. The complainant has paid the entire telephone bills at the time of surrendering his telephone on 14.02.2020. When the Ops have not responded to his repeated request the complainant has filed this complaint before this Commission.
- In support of his contention the complainant has filed his affidavit and also produced Ex.P1 to P13. Ex.P1 is the copy of the telephone registration card, Ex.P2 is the tele deposit receipt, Ex.P3 is the surrender of phone letter dated 27.01.2020, Ex.P4 is the surrender of phone letter second and last page, Ex.P5 is the speed post receipts dated 29.01.2020, Ex.P6 to P8 are the email reminders issued to the Ops and Ex.P9 is the show cause notice dated 07.07.2020.
- On the other hand, the contention taken by the OP is that the statement of finalization of the subscriber was made and SLP was completed on 05.08.2020 for pending dues of Rs.1,218/-. The outstanding amount of Rs.1,218/- was adjusted from deposit and refundable amount of Rs.1,782/- is finalized. It is one of the condition to provide bank details to make NEFT payment. The complainant even till today not furnished the particulars of the bank details. Hence they are unable to process the refund amount to the complainant.
- In support of their contention one of the officials of the OP namely Anjeneya, CAO, has filed affidavit evidence and produced authorization letter, and marked as Ex.R.1. Except Ex.R1 they have not produced any documents before this commission.
- The only contention taken by the OP is that they are unable to process the refund amount to the complainant for want of bank details to make NEFT payment. According to the OP they are liable to refund Rs.1,782/-.
- It is pertinent to note here that the OP has sent another bill for the period from 01.08.2020 to 04.08.2020 for Rs.274.06 ps., to the complainant through email on 19.10.2023. The complainant has sent the same to this commission by post after the case is posted for orders. On 31.10.2023. There is a contradiction in the refundable amount calculated and adjusted by the OP. At one stretch they are taking the contention that the refundable amount is Rs.1,782/- and again they are claiming Rs.274.06 ps., from the complainant and as per their contention they are liable to refund only Rs.1,014.01 ps. The conduct of the OP clearly discloses that by hook or crook they are trying to avoid refund of the deposit amount made by the complainant even though the complainant has surrendered the land line connection of his land line No.08023544618 which effects from 14.02.2020 itself. If really the complainant was due and has not paid the amount due from 01.08.2020 to 04.08.2020 even though the complainant has surrendered the phone prior to 14.02.2020 itself and he has send intimation via speed post on 29.01.2020 itself, the OP would not have waited for all these days for the issue of the bill due from the complainant from 01.08.2020 to 04.08.2020. They would have claimed this amount immediately after the complainant send the surrender letter on 14.02.2020 itself. When the complainant has surrendered the land line on 14.02.2020 itself the question of again collecting the telephone charges from the complainant after surrendering the phone for four days amounting to Rs.274.06 ps., admittedly an amount of Rs.3,000/- in deposit from the complainant as per their new bill send to the complainant dated nil and the bill received by the complainant via email on 19.10.2023. As per the new bill the complainant has to pay the bill and the due date mentioned is 21.09.2020. The bill amount was very much with the OP authorities on the date of issue of the bill. Nothing prevented the OP authorities from disclosing this bill prior to filing of this complaint to the complainant when they are very much aware of the email ID of the complainant.
- On perusal of the Ex.P4 the letter sent to Principal General Manger of OP on 27.01.2020 the complainant has disclosed and requested the Ops to refund of deposit to his SB account number 014010000065160 with HDFC bank limited, Ganganagar, Bangalore, 560032 – NEFTIFSC-HDFC0003718. He has also enclosed one cancelled cheque leaf bearing No.000133 for the information and for the bank account details. Even though the Ops have received the said letter Ex.P4 they have not even bothered to see the letter and the bank details given by the complainant. They have simply with hold the deposit amount without any reason, even though they are liable to refund the amount to the customer. The conduct of the OP clearly discloses that they have acted negligently for the request made by the complainant and have simply dragged the refund process of the deposit amount even though they have got the bank details of the complainant. In view of the lethargic activities of the OP authorities, the complainant was forced to approach this commission and thereby he has sustained mental agony, financial loss and also his valuable time as he is a chartered accountant and he lost his valuable professional time. Under these circumstances, the complainant has clearly established the deficiency of service and negligent and lethargic activity on the part of the OP. hence the complainant is entitled for the relief. Therefore, we answer point No.1 in affirmative and point No.2 partly in affirmative.
- Point No.3:- In view the discussion referred above we proceed to pass the following;
O R D E R
- The complaint is allowed in part.
- OP is hereby directed to refund the balance deposit amount of Rs.1,782/- with interest at 12% p.a., from 14.02.2020 till the date of refund to the complainant.
- The OP further directed to pay compensation of Rs.10,000/- along with litigation cost of Rs.10,000/- to the complainant.
- The OP shall comply this order within 60 days from this date, failing which the OP shall pay interest at 15% p.a. after expiry of 60 days on Rs.1,782/- till final payment.
- Furnish the copy of this order and return the extra pleadings and documents to the parties.
(Dictated to the Stenographer, got it transcribed and corrected, pronounced in the Open Commission on this 17TH day of NOVEMBER 2023)
Documents produced by the Complainant-P.W.1 are as follows:
Ex.P.1 & 2
Copy of the tele deposit receipt(both side)
Ex.P.3 & 4
Copy of the surrender of phone letter dated 27.01.2020
Copy of the speed post receipts dated 29.01.2020, for dispatch of letter dated 27.01.2020
Ex.P.6 to 8
Copy of the email reminders dated 20.02.2020, 25.02.2020, 25.06.2020
Copy of the show cause notice dated 07.07.2020
Copy of the postal receipt
Copy of the complaint details
Copy of the receipt details issued by BSNL
Certificate u/s 65B of the Indian Evidence Act
Documents produced by the representative of opposite party – R.W.1;