A Delhi court has compared credit card issuers to the Shakespearean villain Shylock from Merchant of Venice for loaning money to people at an “extremely high rate of interest” and demanding “a pound of flesh” when the credit card user is unable to clear his dues.
The court’s observations came while dismissing a case filed by ICICI Bank against Delhi resident Mohamed Asgar for failing to pay his ‘outstanding credit card’ dues of Rs 5,51,567.97.
While finding that the bank was approaching it beyond the limitation period, the court observed that most of the amount was interest on an original sum, which was less than Rs 22,000. The defendant, as per the statement of account, had deposited Rs 39,000 in 2009.
The situation reminded the court of the play “Merchant of Venice, where the exploitative moneylender Shylock gave loan on an extremely high rate of interest to the borrower Antonio and demanded a pound of flesh of Antonio for his failure to pay back on time.
“It is precisely this, what the plaintiff bank i.e. ICICI Bank, the contemporary Shylock, is doing,” said additional district judge Kamini Lau. She said customers who splurge on impulsive purchases and are idle customers otherwise are “a cash cow for the issuer.”
The court noted that Asghar’s credit card transaction had been only Rs 21,885 and his closing balance as on July 2009 was Rs 25,092. It noted that the defendant had not used his account for the past five years, and had only been depositing a bare minimum amount to keep it operation.
The court said there were around 19 million credit cards in India, and ICICI Bank was among the top five issuers of such cards. Thus, it was important to ensure that such plaintiffs did not try to recover their dues with actions that violated the “rights so guaranteed to the people of this country under the Constitution of India and infringed upon human rights and principles of Natural Justice,” it said.
According to the plaintiff bank, Asghar had been irregular with his payments. He had been sent a legal notice to pay the outstanding balance on his credit card in July 2009 and ignored the same.
The defendant claimed that the bank’s recovery department had approached him in February 2009 and asked him to return the credit card, on which he showed his inability to pay the outstanding amount. He said that the bank employees had issued him a receipt which he was unable to trace.