In a daring robbery in Harayana recently, thieves broke into Punjab National Bank’s branch in Sonepat, and scooped away jewellery, cash and other valuables from 89 out of 350 lockers. They rented an abandoned house across the street, and dug a 125-ft long, 7-ft high and 2.5 ft wide tunnel to emerge into the locker room, and went away with the booty.
Those who had lockers in that bank, claimed that the robbery is worth atleast Rs 100 crore. They are now penniless, and all their lives savings have been robbed from them. There was no CC TV anywhere in the branch, and there is no clue as to where the robbers went, as they went back via the same tunnel.
Such is the scale of this robbery that Prime Ministers Office (PMO) had to intervene and send their representatives to Sonepat for high level investigations. Considering the precision and the perfectness of the tunnel, the way it opened up exactly the place where locker open starts and other evidences point out that it is an insider job.
Can they claim any insurance to recover some of their belongings? Will Bank be held responsible for this robbery? Is your belonging safe with the bank?
Here are 5 most important facts which every bank locker holder should be aware of:
– It may come as a shocker for few, but bank doesn’t provide any insurance to the belongings which are kept inside their lockers. In fact, banks are not responsible for your locker, in case of any unforeseen situation, over which bank has no control over. (only Axis Bank is offering an insurance for jewellery items kept inside their lockers, with several terms and conditions)
– As per the RBI policy: “The bank will, in no way, be responsible/liable for the contents kept in the locker by the hirer. In case of theft, burglary or similar unforeseen events, action will be initiated as per law.”
– In case a customer opts for a locker from a bank, it is more of a proprietor and a tenant relationship: banks provide on rent, a secured facility to safeguard your previous processions, and nothing more than that. Hence, in case there is a robbery, natural disaster like Earthquake, flood or fire or any other situation where in bank has no control, you cannot claim even a paisa from the bank. As per the banks, an instance of robbery (like in Sonepat) is an unlucky, unfortunate incident something which they have any control and hence they are not liable for any compensation.
– When you put your belongings in a locker, bank is not notified about its content hence cannot provide any insurance for it. And, According to Section 152 of the Indian Contract Act, a bank is not responsible for any loss or damage to the contents of a locker.
As per CVR Rajendran, CMD of Andhra Bank, “As banks don’t know the contents of the locker, they don’t have an insurable interest (where the insured person derives a financial or other kind of benefit from the continuous existence of the insured object) in the same.”
– Banks can compensate only in two cases: a) You show the proof of your belongings in the locker by means of invoice or chalan issued from the place you bought those items. But again, it becomes very difficult for the customer to prove that the items mentioned in the invoice were indeed inside the locker. b) If you can prove that bank didn’t fulfil all the required security measures to safeguard the content inside the locker. In one such instance, a customer discovered that insects and bugs had destroyed currency placed inside the locker. Again, the customer didn’t get 100% of the destroyed currencies.
These facts should be treated more as a cautionary guidelines, and not as a decision factor. Even driving leads to accidents but that doesn’t mean that all cars and bikes should be secured at home. The above mentioned facts are actually existing laws and regulations related with usage of bank lockers.
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[Contributed by Mohul Ghosh]