Dismissing a complaint, the national consumer disputes redressal commission (NCDRC) ruled that the act of Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) inviting quotations from banks seeking higher interest rates for its term deposits does not fall under the Consumer Protection Act. In this case, JNPT had also filed a case with the central bureau of investigation (CBI) against Oriental Bank of Commerce (OBC) for transferring Rs180 crore to one Padmavati International. JNPT had deposited the money with OBC as a term deposit in two tranches.
In an order, the bench of justice Ram Surat Ram Maurya (presiding member) and Dr Inder Jit Singh (member) says, “…transactions between the complainant (JNPT) and the opposite party (OBC) were business to business transactions with motive to earn profit and for commercial purpose. The complainant falls within the exclusion clause of the definition of ‘consumer’ as defined under the Consumer Protection Act, and the complaint on its behalf is not maintainable.”
The bench observed that in 2014, JNPT invited quotations from various banks seeking interest rates for its term deposit of Rs100 crore to Rs120 crore for two years. OBC offered an interest of 9.67% per annum (pa), the highest among other banks. On 12 February 2014, JNPT transferred Rs110 crore as a term deposit with OBC for two years with an interest of 9.67% compounded quarterly.
Again on 15 February 2014, JNPT invited quotations from banks for a term deposit of Rs60 crore to Rs70 crore. OBC offered an interest rate of 9.75%pa, which was again the highest compared to other banks. On 17 February 2014, JNPT transferred Rs70 crore to OBC as a term deposit.
JNPT sent emails to OBC seeking term deposit receipts (TDRs) for its two deposits of Rs110 crore and Rs70 crore. However, it did not receive the TDRs from OBC for the two deposits. JNPT alleged OBC ‘was making some excuse for not issuing TDRs’.
After escalating the complaint with the general manager of OBC, the Trust learned that the amount of its term deposits had been transferred to the current account of Padmavati International. JNPT then filed a complaint in CBI.
OBC contended that JNPT’s finance manager B Vasudeva Rao handed over the original letter dated 12 February 2014 to the Trust’s assistant technician Atmaram P Thakur, for creating a TDR of Rs110 crore for one year. “This original letter dated 12 February 2014 is now untraceable anywhere, which shows that misappropriation was done in connivance and active involvement of the employee of the JNPT.”
“In spite of the fact that JNPT did not receive TDR of the money transferred on 12 February 2014, it again transferred Rs70 crore on 17 February 2014, further strengthening the connivance of the employees of JNPT. The complainant (JNPT) did not insist for issue of TDRs immediately and is guilty of contributory negligence. Transfer of money in the account of Padmavati International was at the behest of JNPT,” OBC contended.
OBC also requested NCDRC to dismiss the complaint as JNPT is not a consumer and the complaint is not maintainable.
Referring to NCDRC’s judgement in Synco Textiles Pvt Ltd vs Greaves Colton & Company Ltd, the bench stated the expression ‘for any commercial purpose’ are wide enough to take in all cases, where goods are purchased for being used in any activity directly intended to generate profit.
“…the intension of the Parliament must be understood to be to exclude from the scope of the expression ‘consumer’ any person who buys goods for the purposes of their being used in any activity engaged on a large scale for the purposes of making profit. The Parliament wanted to exclude from the scope of the definition not merely persons who obtains goods for resale but also those who purchase goods with a view of using such goods for carrying on any activity on a large scale for the purposes of earning profit,” NCDRC says.
In January 2019, the enforcement directorate (ED) attached Rs41.87 crore lying in bank accounts in Hong Kong of some shell companies in connection with the JNPT-OBC fraud case. According to the ED, one Rajesh Bangawala conspired with bank officials and fraudulently transferred Rs180 crore deposited by the JNPT to Padmavati International using forged documents. The agency recovered and returned Rs109 crore to JNPT.
(Consumer Case No1564 of 2016 Date: 22 March 2016) Source: moneylife.in