A consumer forum in Chennai directed a private bank to pay Rs five lakh in compensation to top-ranked squash player Dipika Pallikal in a case that set off a controversy after the bank questioned her stature as a top athlete in the course of defending itself.
The Axis Bank has also been instructed to pay Rs 5,000 as cost to Pallikal, an Arjuna awardee and Padmasri recipient who has been ranked number 11 at the international level.
Pallikal approached the Chennai South District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum in 2012 against Axis Bank for deficiency in service, after the debit card it issued failed to work at a hotel in Rotterdam, Holland, where she had gone to take part in an international championship. The bill was about 490 euros (Rs 3,000 as per the currency rates then) whereas she had Rs 2.96 lakhs in the account.
The stress and humiliation she had to go through affected her performance in the tournament, she claimed, seeking a compensation of Rs 10 lakh. Also, the bank returned a cheque for Rs one lakh issued by the union sports ministry on invalid technical grounds.
In its defence, the bank denied negligence and stated that the incident was an unforeseen one, over which it had no control. However, in its ill-advised counter against the claim for compensation, the bank went ahead to question Dipika’s stature as a champion sportsperson, raised doubts about her professionalism and mental strength, and even downplayed her popularity in the country.
Delivering the verdict on Monday, forum president P Jayapalan and member Deenadayalan held the bank guilty of deficiency in servicing its customer, and directed it to pay Rs 5 lakh as compensation and Rs 5,000 in costs to Pallikal.