There is no doubt that the banks are the custodians of public property. They “cannot leave their customers in the lurch” by claiming ignorance of the contents of their lockers. To safeguard the assets and keep up the trust, the banks should have strong locker rules. Regarding this the Supreme Court said that the present state of regulations on locker management is inadequate and muddled and that the Reserve Bank of India will have to frame a set of New Bank Locker Rules in 6 months.
“Banks are under the mistaken impression that not having knowledge of the contents of the locker exempts them from (the) liability for failing to secure the lockers in themselves as well. In as much as we are the highest court of the country, we cannot allow the litigation between the bank and locker holders to continue in this vein,” the top court observed.
The court ordered for the new rules while hearing a case of Amitabha Dasgupta, a bank customer. He said his locker was broken open after the branch officials claimed that he had missed his dues; he denied the claims. When the bank gave him back his jewels, he was given only two of seven ornaments.
Observing that the banks “cannot impose unilateral and unfair terms on consumers”, the Supreme Court imposed a fine of ? 5 lakh on the United Bank of India for breaking open the locker without informing the customer. These are some of the points put forward by the Court concerning the bank locker safety rules:
Customer should be informed before breaking open the locker
The RBI have to frame rules within next six months on locker management
The RBI should frame rules on bank’s responsibility on loss of locker contents
Banks cannot escape liability
Banks must deduct the amount from the officials’ salary