New Delhi: Saying that the banks cannot wash off their hands towards their customers for the operation of lockers, the Supreme Court on Friday asked the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to frame regulations within six months preparing the steps to be taken by banks with respect to locker facility management.Also Read - Banks To Remain Closed On THESE Days In January. Check Complete List Here

While hearing the matter, the SC-bench comprising Justices M M Shantanagoudar and Vineet Saran said with the advent of globalization, banking institutions have acquired a very significant role in the life of the common man as both domestic and international economic transactions within the country have increased multiple folds. Also Read - RBI Recruitment 2022: Notification Out For 14 Posts on rbi.org.in | Apply Before This Date

During the hearing, the apex court also said that the people are hesitant to keep their liquid assets at home as “we are steadily moving towards a cashless economy.” Thus, as is evident from the rising demand for such services, lockers have become an essential service provided by every banking institution. Such services may be availed of by citizens as well as by foreign nationals, the bench said. Also Read - US Supreme Court Halts Biden Administration's COVID-19 Vaccine Rule For Businesses

“In the electronically operated lockers, though the customer may have partial access to the locker through passwords or ATM pin, etc., they are unlikely to possess the technological know how to control the operation of such lockers,” the bench said.

Moreover, due to rapid gains in technology, “we are now transitioning from dual key operated lockers to electronically operated lockers,” the top court said.

The court also added that there is the possibility that miscreants may manipulate the technologies used in these systems to gain access to the lockers without the customers’ knowledge or consent.

The top court bench said that a customer is completely at the mercy of the bank, which is the more resourceful party, for the protection of their assets.

“In such a situation, the banks cannot wash off their hands and claim that they bear no liability towards their customers for the operation of the locker,” it said.

The bench said that very purpose for which the customer avails of the locker hiring facility is so that they may rest assured that their assets are being properly taken care of.

Such actions of the banks would not only violate the relevant provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, but also damage investor confidence and harm our reputation as an emerging economy.

Thus it is necessary that the RBI lays down comprehensive directions mandating the steps to be taken by banks with respect to locker facility/safe deposit facility management, the court said adding that banks should not have the liberty to impose unilateral and unfair terms on the consumers.

The judgment came on an appeal filed by Kolkata native Amitabha Dasgupta against a order of National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.

Dasgupta filed a complaint before the District Consumer Forum seeking a direction to United Bank of India to return the seven ornaments that were in the locker; or alternatively pay Rs. 3 lakh towards the cost of jewelry, and compensation for damages.

(With inputs from PTI)