Dipika Pallikal wins match against Axis Bank

JINOY JOSE P | Updated on March 26, 2014


The Cheet sheet: A weekly column that helps you ask the right questions

A squash match? But the challenger’s name sounds quite odd.

Well, it’s match of a different kind, a battle which the squash champion won after a long fight. On March 24, Arjuna awardee Dipika Pallikal won her legal wrangle against Axis Bank in a consumer court in Chennai. The court held the bank responsible for deficient service and ordered it to pay a compensation of ₹5 lakh to Pallikal. Axis Bank will also have to pay ₹5,000 towards costs.

What’s the case?

In a petition filed in 2012, Pallikal had charged Axis Bank with humiliation and loss of reputation. The reason: her Axis Bank debit card failed to perform a transaction at a Rotterdam hotel in 2011 despite there being sufficient balance in her account.

Pallikal said this had caused her a lot of trouble as she cut a sorry figure among players from other countries who made remarks about her creditworthiness and also about India.

Yes, I can imagine. It happened to me as well. I kept mum, though.

Pallikal didn’t. She managed to make do with another card and paid the hotel. She contacted the bank, but its response was not really inspiring. The bank officials later termed the incident a case of force majeure.

Oh, what does it mean?

Literally, ‘superior force’. It’s a common term in legal contracts, which roughly means a natural and unavoidable catastrophe or an act of God and beyond their control. This clause frees both parties from liability or obligation when such instances occur. In this case, the bank said it was not responsible for what happened.

Obviously, Pallikal wasn't ready to accept this so-called act of God.

Yes. But there's more. Soon after this episode, Axis Bank returned a ₹1 lakh cheque Pallikal had deposited. It said the cheque was “not drawn on us”. In fact, it was given to her by the government for her achievements in squash. Pallikal is ranked Number 1 in India and 11th in the world.

Okay, then?

After a lot of exchanges, the bank finally credited the amount, saying it had been returned due to a technical error. Upset at the attitude of the bank, Pallikal decided to sue it. She sought ₹10 lakh in compensation. But the bank refused to take the blame. Its affidavit said: “The very fact that the complainant is not able to take the slightest disturbance would prove that she lacks the requisite mental toughness of a world champion.”

That doesn’t sound cool at all. It’s surprising that a bank, that too a private one, would let down a high-profile customer in such a fashion!

Looks like the court too thought so. Pallikal, a Padma Shri recipient, said the victory was meant for all consumers in India. It reaffirmed their faith in consumer courts, and would motivate other consumers who are wronged by service providers to stand up and fight for justice.

Indeed. Now, let me call my lawyer!

You’re welcome. But do remember you really need the will power and resilience of a world champion to see justice delivered.

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Published on March 26, 2014
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