A finance company cannot forcibly take possession of a vehicle for non-payment of dues without sending a notice to the borrower, country’s apex consumer commission has said.
The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCRDC) on Friday ordered a private finance company to pay Rs 80,000 to the borrower whose tractor was seized by the company in January, 2011 for alleged non-payment of dues.
Directing Shriram Transport Finance Company to refund the amount, which the borrower had paid to the company, with 9% interest within four weeks, single-member bench of M Sreesha said, “In my opinion, a seizure of the vehicle in such circumstances violating the principles of natural justice without giving an opportunity to the borrower to show his bona fides, amounts not only to unfair trade practice but also deficiency of service for which the financier is liable to compensate the complainant.”
The NCDRC relied on the “vehicle repossession notice” by the company to the borrower, which showed that the notice was issued 10 days after the actual date of repossession of the tractor and the Commission observed that this “cannot be stated to be a notice prior to repossession which is in contravention of the principle of natural justice”.
The case dates back to December 2009 when one Sakharam Sahu of Durg in Chhattisgarh had purchased the tractor with Rs 1 lakh loan after mortgaging his vehicle. Sahu needed to pay Rs 4,677 monthly instalment for 31 months. The finance company took possession of the vehicle on January 15 in 2011 as the borrower did not pay the instalment “despite repeated demands”. The company had raised a demand of Rs 1.30 lakh. Sahu had submitted that he had repaid Rs 80,000 out of the total Rs 1 lakh loan and hence the company demanding Rs 1.30 lakh was “unjustified”. The finance company took possession of the vehicle in January, 2011.
Aggrieved by the action, Sahu approached the district consumer forum, but did not get any relief. Though he later challenged the order in the state commission, it upheld the district forum’s order. Finally, he challenged the state commission order in the NCDRC in 2014.
The NCDRC observed, “It is relevant to note that the notice is admittedly dated 25.01.2011, whereas in the body of the letter it is stated that the vehicle was taken into possession on 15.01.2011 at 2 pm. Viewed from any angle this repossession notice which dated 10 days after the actual date of repossession cannot be stated to be a notice prior to repossession which is in contravention to the principles of natural justice.”