Carl DeSouza had executed a general power of attorney appointing his father Dr. DJ DeSouza as his constituted attorney. The father approached Bank of Baroda, Margao branch, to open a joint account along with his son, and sign on his son’s behalf. But the bank refused to consider the power of attorney valid to open an account.
Alleging this to be a deficiency in service, a consumer complaint was filed before the South Goa District Commission seeking a direction to the bank to open the account. The bank contested the case, contending that the power of attorney did not vest the father with the authority to open an account in the son’s name. The district commission upheld the bank’s contention and dismissed the complaint, so an appeal was filed challenging the order.
The Goa State Commission relied on a Supreme Court decision where a power of attorney was defined to mean an instrument or document executed to empower a specific person (agent or constituted attorney) to act for and in the name of the person executing it. So the agent could exercise only those powers that are conferred upon him. It illustrated that a power of attorney could vest a person with the right to purchase a property without conferring any right to sell it.
In view of this interpretation, the state commission observed that the crux of the dispute was whether the general power of attorney vested the father with the authority to open a bank account.
It noted that the power of attorney permitted signing of documents, letters, mutual funds, IPOs, from public and private sector banks and to pay insurance premiums. Since there was no clause empowering the father to open a bank account in the son’s name, the state commission concluded the bank was justified in refusing to open an account.
By its order of January 14, the Goa State Commission dismissed DeSouza’s appeal. The father was advised to obtain a fresh power of attorney from his son rather than waste time in litigation.
(The author is a consumer activist and has won the Govt. of India’s National Youth Award for Consumer Protection. His email is email@example.com)