The Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, South Goa at Margao ruled in favour of a senior citizen who wanted to withdraw cash from her account but was not allowed to do so after being accused of being mentally ill by her daughters. The forum came down strongly on the bank which refused the request while referring to their conduct as amounting to ‘deficiency of service’.
In the complaint, a 78-year-old senior citizen who currently resides at an old age home in Bardez said her only source of income was the pension she receives upon the death of her husband and the state government’s DSS scheme. She said that she wanted to withdraw cash from her Madgaum Urban Co-op Bank Ltd, but the bank refused to allow her to withdraw the money on grounds that two of her three daughters had filed a complaint that the mother was being treated at a mental hospital.
The bank also asked the complainant to produce a medical certificate from the Institute of Psychiatry and Human Behaviour (IPHB) to the effect that she was fit to do banking transactions.
In its reasoning, the forum noted that two daughters had filed a complaint in 2016 that their mother was suffering from dementia and was unable to handle her account and that she had been taking treatment at IPHB for the past 10 years. The forum questioned the allegation considering that the bank account was opened in 2000 and transactions were being made till 2015.
“According to the complaint, the complainant has been suffering from dementia and was taking treatment in IPHB for ten years prior… at least since September 2006. If that was so, how did the complainant operate her account for a period of nine years from September 2006 till July 2015,” the forum questioned.
Taking into account the case being a senior citizen, the forum said, “It is pertinent to note that the two daughters had objected only to the withdrawal of her money but was never concerned about her personal well-being.”
The forum citied provisions from the Mental Health Care Act 2017 saying only a court can declare a person mentally unfit and that the bank was wrong in assuming the complainant was mentally ill.
“Only because a person is determined to suffer from mental illness will not imply or be taken to mean that he or she is of unsound mind unless declared by a competent court. The complaint on which the bank has sought to act does not refer to any such declaration by a competent court or by other authorities. The opposite party, therefore, could not have assumed that the complainant is of unsound mind,” it noted.
With this reasoning, the forum said that that the bank’s failure to allow the complainant to withdraw money from her account amounted to deficiency in service and ordered that the senior citizen can withdraw money from her account after satisfying the rules and regulations of the Reserve Bank of India including a thumb impression and Aadhar card for the purpose of identification.