The TOP consumer court in Delhi on Friday slammed banks for denying services like loans and credit cards to people of select professions, like lawyers and journalists.
The Delhi State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission gave the order in a case of a lawyer who had complained that a bank had rejected her application for a credit card because of her profession. It imposed a fine of Rs 10 lakh on ICICI Bank for “defaming and demeaning the legal profession” by rejecting Nivedita Sharma’s application, citing she had a “negative profile”.
The court said lawyers and journalists are often denied loan facilities by banks. “The apparent reason is that lawyers and journalists do not take illegal or arbitrary acts of banks lying down and challenge them in courts. Banks know they cannot play games with them,” a bench headed by Justice JD Kapoor said.
There are more than 45,000 lawyers and 5,000 journalists in Delhi.
“Such a policy reflects the mindset of banks as private officials, peons, clerks and even vegetable vendors are extended loans but not advocates or journalists with sound financial standing,” the court said. “It is an act of corporate authoritarianism.”
The court said such discrimination should be stopped at once. The only criteria should be fulfillment of RBI guidelines and financial standing and creditworthiness of a person, it said.
It rejected ICICI’s claim that it had the discretion to choose customers.
An ICICI spokesperson said they would appeal against the order. The bank admitted that the lawyer’s documents were returned with a note, “negative profile”, but it was not an “attempt to undermine her position”.