Car theft: Service centre told to shut up and pay

Mumbai: A service centre that argued that it is not bound to compensate for a vehicle which was stolen under its custody was pulled up by a consumer court here. "In such a case, the service provider is liable to pay compensation to the owner of the vehicle," ruled the court.

The court accordingly ordered the private service centre to pay Rs 12 lakh as compensation to the car owner, of which Rs one lakh is for the trauma caused to the car owner and Rs two lakh towards his court expenses. The price of the car was estimated to be Rs nine lakh.

A bench of Justice PB Joshi and SK Kakade, ordered Navi Mumbai-based Nikhil Automobiles to pay Rs 12 lakh to Subhash Bhalwal, whose Chevrolet car was stolen.

According to Bhalwal's complaint, his car met with an accident in 2016 and was damaged. The car needed urgent repairs and was thus sent to the service centre.

However, even before the car could be taken back, it was stolen from the service centre.

When Bhalwal sought compensation, the service provider refused to pay. It cited its "policy" and "conditions mentioned in the repair order which was signed by the customer" to claim that it is not liable to pay any compensation for the theft of vehicle.

Countering the argument, the customer submitted that the conditions were not legible and hence not binding. Having heard the contentions, Justice Joshi said, "We find that even if anybody can read those conditions, the conditions are not legal."

"Admittedly, the vehicle was given in possession of the service provider for repairs. It was their duty to return the vehicle after carrying out repairs. Just by mentioning such 'conditions' in repair order, one cannot evade liability for a theft or damage to vehicle caused in their custody," the court ruled.

The court further held that it was the legal duty of the service provider to return the vehicle and hence there is clear-cut deficiency in service on the part of the providers.