The Supreme Court asked the Centre on Tuesday to provide it with a list of “corporate entities” that owe money in excess of Rs 500 crore to banks. Empirical data on recovery cases pending from the last ten years in debt recovery tribunals (DRTs) and their appellate bodies also has to be given to the court.
Taking note of the lack of infrastructure and manpower in these tribunals, a bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur said legislative changes on fast disposal of such cases will not produce results unless infrastructure facilities were augmented.
The court also wants to know “whether the timelines set down in the amended legislation are capable of being achieved with the existing infrastructure including judicial personnel and staffing pattern of the debt recovery tribunals and debt recovery appellate tribunals”.
It asked the Centre if any scientific study was conducted on the availability of infrastructure and what steps can be adopted to enhance the infrastructure of the tribunals, pointing that even the non-judicial personnel was insufficient in these quasi-judicial bodies.
To emphasize its concern the bench quoted a letter written to the CJI by the chairperson of a tribunal in Allahabad. The judge concerned said he was constrained to tender his resignation from the post due to the absence of “infrastructure and facilities”.
The Centre, in a recent affidavit, had apprised the court that more than 70,000 cases involving an amount of Rs 5 lakh crore approximately are pending before DRTs, of which many are pending for more than ten years.
The bench noted that though the Act concerned provides for disposal of recovery applications within 180 days, the cases have remained pending for years.
It was hearing the PIL, filed in 2003 by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), which had originally raised the issue of loans advanced to some companies by state-owned Housing and Urban Development Corporation.
The plea said that about Rs 40,000 crore of corporate debt was written off in 2015. The bench had clarified that the issue of loan defaults would be dealt later.
(With agency inputs)