Mr. Ram Prakash Dahiya (hereinafter “Plaintiff”) had raised a personal loan from the Barclays Bank (hereinafter “Respondent”), to the tune of Rs. 4,12,000/- for running a transport business along with his wife, Mrs. Parmeshwari Devi. The loan was repayable with interest in 60 equal instalments, starting from September, 2007. However, the plaintiff was travelling in the month of October, 2008 and thereby failed to make the payments in that period.
Due to the said default, the bank sent 7 musclemen to the residence of the Plaintiff, who threated, abused and harassed Mrs. Parmeshwari Devi, and forced themselves into the house of the Plaintiff. However, after much hue and cry, and intervention from the neighbours the musclemen left, threatening to return if the payments were not made in time. After 10 days, the bank officials and musclemen again forced themselves into the Plaintiff’s house and harassed the wife of the Plaintiff. The acts of the bank tarnished the reputation of the Plaintiff and his wife, and the Plaintiff, through his counsel, sent a legal notice to the bank for its actions demanding Rs. 7 Lacs and an unconditional apology, or Rs. 10 Lacs, for the harassment and mental agony suffered by the Plaintiff and his wife. When the Bank failed to fulfil the demands of the Plaintiff, a suit was instituted against the Respondent Bank in the Delhi District Court.
Once the suit was instituted, the Respondent Bank denied all allegations of harassment or coercion among other allegations levied against the bank and its representatives. The bank rather alleged that the Plaintiff deliberately faltered in repayment of instalment, and that the Plaintiff was aware of the dues.
OBSERVATIONS OF THE COURT
While the court did observe the inconsistencies in the statement of the Plaintiff and the witness, the court observed that merely because an FIR wasn’t lodged or the Plaintiff wasn’t informed in time by his wife, does not permit the Respondents to take the law in their own hands. The Court further observed that Unlike under criminal law where the prosecution has to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt the plaintiff in a civil suit is entitled to prove its case on preponderance of probabilities.
The Court further observed that while inconsistent, the statements made by the witnesses and the Plaintiff do corroborate with one another. Furthermore, the Court observed that the defendant bank with financial clout cannot be permitted to use muscle power to the perils of borrowers of the defendant bank. If there is any default on the part of any borrower then the bank should use lawful methods for recovery of the loan available with them under the law.
Furthermore, the ld. Court observed that “Even if there is default for long period the defendant bank does not suffer any loss as the recovery can be legally made, by taking due course of law, with interest and cost from the borrower. But if instead of taking legal remedies by adopting legal process the coercive methods are used by the defendant bank or its collection manager acting on its behalf by using musclemen to threaten the wife of the borrower with dire consequences or by using filthy the language or attempting to remove the goods of the borrower in his absence from his house by insulting his wife these actions of the defendant bank, it would, in my view, give rise to tortuous liability.”
The Ld. Court held that due to the loss of reputation and insult felt by the Plaintiff and his wife at the hands of the bank authorities and representatives, the suit is maintainable. The Court further decided that the said acts of the Respondent Bank constituted trespass, and gave rise to tortuous liability, as it has tarnished the reputation of the and caused mental agony to the Plaintiff. Thus, the Court passed an award in favor of the Plaintiff to recover a sum of Rs. 3.5 Lacs at 6% interest from the Respondent Bank as compensation for its acts.