23 Nov 2022 10:01 AM GMT
The Karnataka High Court has restrained the Canara Bank from recovering the excess amount paid to a senior citizen in the family pension account and has asked the bank to recover the same from its officers who are responsible for not acting on the pensioner's representations for years.The pensioner had, on several occasions starting from the year 2016, requested the bank to deduct the...
The Karnataka High Court has restrained the Canara Bank from recovering the excess amount paid to a senior citizen in the family pension account and has asked the bank to recover the same from its officers who are responsible for not acting on the pensioner's representations for years.
The pensioner had, on several occasions starting from the year 2016, requested the bank to deduct the excess amount in instalments and unblock her account.
A single judge bench of Justice M Nagaprasanna allowed the petition filed by 62-year-old Nalini Devi against recovery of Rs.2,34,158/- excess pension. It said,
"The result of excess pension paid is directly attributable to the Officers of the Bank who had a duty to correct the pension and recover excess amount way back in the year 2016 when the petitioner had offered such recovery to be made. The Bank, having not done so for 6 years, cannot now seek to recover even a rupee from the hands of the petitioner."
"Recovery shall be made from the officers of the Bank who have failed to act for all these years and set the pension of the petitioner right. Such officers shall be identified by the Bank and proceedings be initiated against them for such recovery, strictly in a manner known to law and in consonance with the principles of natural justice."
The petitioner is the widow of a retired Police employee who died in 2004. After his death, family pension came to be issued in favour of the Petitioner. In November 2016, the petitioner made her first representation to Bank regarding the excess payment and offered that the same be deduced. However, years passed by and the Bank failed to act on her repeated requests. As a fallout, the excess payment soared to over Rs. 2 lakh from initial Rs. 50,000 and her pension account was eventually blocked.
Coming across the aforesaid circumstances, the High Court remarked that it was not the folly of the petitioner that excess pension was deposited into her account. In fact, it noted that she brought this anomaly to notice of the Bank and pleaded that the same be set right but, "the officers turned a deaf ear and a blind eye" and "apparently harassed the petitioner, a senior citizen".
"A senior citizen has been made to roam from pillar to post, mentally harassed, first to set her pension right, and then asking unblocking of the account, unmarking the hold on Rs.2,34,158."
Allowing the petition, the court directed the respondents to unblock the account of the petitioner, if blocked and added that no recovery can be made of the alleged excess payment from the account or hands of the petitioner. The Bank shall not cause any impediment for payment of family pension to the petitioner in future, except in consonance with law.
Appeal to state authorities to redress grievances of senior citizens.
The bench appealed to State authorities performing public functions to wake up and redress the grievances of those citizens, particularly, pensioners or any widow drawing family pension, immediately, so that they do not suffer. "If the grievance of the petitioner, as quoted hereinabove is noticed, it would demonstrate lassitude on the part of the Bank towards its customers, particularly, of senior citizens," Justice Nagaprasanna said.
The bench added,
"If there is any section of the society that has to be given care and compassion over and above other classes are those senior citizens or the elderly class. It must be remembered that utterance of any unkind word or an attitude of being unkind towards them would be enough to make tears roll down their cheeks. Therefore, authorities particularly, which are declared to be a State under Article 12 of the Constitution of India or any authority performing public function has to now wake up and redress the grievances of those citizens, particularly, pensioners or any widow drawing family pension, immediately, so that they do not suffer."
Further, suggesting an emphatic approach be adopted towards pensioners, it said, "The feeble voices of the pensioners and the old, cannot be left to be turned a deaf ear and their problems cannot also be turned a blind eye."
"We are in a digital age, excess payment is immediately reflected on the screens of computers through which the amounts are disbursed. It is only to be noticed by the person operating the computer or the person who takes the decision on transferring the monthly pension. In such a case, neither the hardware nor the software would be responsible, but it is the heartware, heartware I mean, the person who handles the account and transfers the amount through the computer."
Then it observed, "It is that heartware that has to detect that something is amiss. If only excess payment is detected at early stages, there would be no loss caused to the Bank/State or agony to the holder of an account. It is always the folly of the officers who handle such accounts, who either do not act properly or display lackadaisical attitude towards the problems of its customers even if brought to their notice, particularly, in matters concerning pension."
Case Title: NALINI DEVI v. THE GENERAL MANAGER CANARA BANK.
Case No: WRIT PETITION No.22058 OF 2021
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Kar) 475
Date of Order: 17TH DAY OF NOVEMBER, 2022
Appearance: HANUMANTHAPPA HARAVI GOWDAR B., ADVOCATE for petitioner; NAYANA TARA B.G., ADVOCATE FOR R1 TO R4; N.KUMAR, AGA FOR R5.
Click Here To Read/Download Order