SBI’s oldest branch in Punjab shut for not paying rent to Abohar Municipal Corporation
The oldest branch of the State Bank of India (SBI) in Punjab was sealed by the Abohar municipal corporation on Monday for unauthorised occupation of a public asset since 1982.
According to the local body authorities, India’s largest public sector bank had defaulted on payment of monthly rent of nearly ₹1 crore.
The authorities said that officials of the Abohar municipal corporation had failed to act against the illegal possession of its property by the bank on prime land in Bazaar Number 4 for four decades.
With the help of the local police authorities, the Abohar MC took possession of the building but left the bank customers and staff in a quandary.
Official sources said the SBI branch has estimated cash of ₹50 crore in the vaults besides a large number of lockers and important official data.
When contacted, SBI branch chief manager Gaurav Aggarwal declined comment.
Abohar municipal commissioner Abhijeet Kaplish said that in 1930, the then local body had given land on lease to the then Imperial Bank of India that was renamed State Bank of India after being nationalised following Independence.
Monthly rent should have been ₹5 lakh: MC chief
“The property on which the bank was functional was given on lease and its term ended in 1982. After that, the bank started paying a monthly rent of ₹20,000 arbitrarily fixed without any merit but continued its operations without renewing the lease. For the past two years, it stopped paying the rent to MC altogether. The anomaly came to my notice after I assumed office last year and the bank was apprised of the illegality. Our team calculated that the monthly rent of the building should be ₹5 lakh,” Kaplish said.
After serving repeated notices, the local body filed a case under the Punjab Public Premises and Land (Eviction and Rent Recovery) Act, 1973 (Punjab Act 31 of 1973). On December 15, 2020, the collector court of the sub divisional magistrate directed the bank to vacate the premises.
“The SBI management was even offered the land for ₹10 crore. But the bank did not show any interest and the pending dues were also not cleared after which the MC took control over its legitimate property today,” Kaplish said.