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A recent incident involving the break-out of a fire at a Punjab National Bank branch has raised many questions in our minds about the safety of the items we keep for safeguarding in a bank locker.

It must be clarified here that the safety lockers were not harmed, but still the question of safety remains. Are they safe? What happens in case the locker is destroyed along with our valuables?

For long, lockers have been the first choice to safeguard valuables for most Indians, and they continue to be the safest option. To hire a bank locker, one has to be above 18 years of age. Some bankers may also ask you to open a savings account with them. The lockers provided are of different sizes and we can choose the size of the locker based on our requirement. The deposit amount and the charges for hiring the locker vary from bank to bank. The banks have made the nomination or joint ownership of a locker compulsory while hiring a locker. The customer will receive a ‘memorandum of letting’, which is a document that states our locker details while hiring the locker.

Each locker has two keys: the customer keeps one key, while the other stays with the bank. The locker can be opened only when both keys are used.

It is believed that bank lockers are the safest places to keep valuables. But this may not be true. Banks say that the relationship between a person hiring the locker and the bank is like that of a proprietor and a tenant. The banks do not know what is kept in the lockers, so they do not want to compensate if the contents of the locker go missing.

The basic premise behind the banks shying away from responsibility is the fact that they do not want to know what is inside the locker. If they do not know what the contents are, then how can they be sure that your claim is correct in case you lose your belongings?

What does the RBI say about lockers?
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.”

The RBI has also said that even if the banks do not know about the contents of the locker, they should take necessary steps to protect the contents in the locker. There have been a few cases in the past where customers have received compensation for loss or damage to locker contents.

Case studies:
Punjab National Bank vs K.V. Shetty
Here the person found the contents (jewellery) missing from his locker and received a compensation of Rs 1,26,017 along with interest calculated at the rate of 18 per cent through a consumer court. The bank claimed that it was not responsible for the loss as per the agreement signed, but the argument was dismissed.

Bank of India vs Kanak Choudhary
Here, the customer filed a case stating that termites had destroyed currency notes and important papers kept in her locker. The commission said that the bank “was bound to ensure that the respondents' locker remained safe in all respects”, and awarded compensation to the customer.

How to ensure the safety of locker contents
Make sure your bank has all the necessary security measures, such as alarm system, iron-gated rooms, electronic surveillance via CCTV, etc. Visit your locker frequently and ensure your valuables are safe. The RBI and banks expect frequent locker visits from customers.

The important aspects to be considered are the terms and conditions regarding the locker hiring process. Read the documents carefully. Make a list of all the things you are planning to keep in your locker. This will help you calculate the value of the contents, and will help you claim your compensation in case the items go missing.

Always open your locker after the bank employee who accompanies you to the vault leaves the place.

Also, ensure the locker is properly locked before you leave the vault.

Disclaimer: All information in this article has been provided by BankBazaar.com and NDTV Profit is not responsible for the accuracy and completeness of the same.

Story first published on: December 16, 2012 12:25 (IST)

Tags: Bank locker


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