Facts of the case:
The respondent, Mrs. Shanti Devi Sharma, alleged that on 29.11.2005, two recovery agents (referred to as ‘goons’) forcibly entered her son’s bedroom and harassed him to pay the loans that were due on his vehicle (two-wheeler) and personal loan. She further stated that these ‘goons’ had repossessed the vehicle in the presence of his friends who had ridiculed him for losing the motorcycle. Even the members of the neighborhood, according the respondent, had allegedly mocked and made comments and snide remarks on her son. This humiliation led her son to commit suicide by hanging himself.
The High Court decided to ascertain the veracity of these facts and order the Police to conduct a thorough investigation. The High Court stated accordingly:
- Para 1: “… the vehicle for which loan was taken was repossessed by the musclemen employed by the ICICI bank.”
- Para 3: “… led him to commit suicide was on account of humiliation caused by the Bank…”
- Para 4: “The modus operandi employed by banks … by no stretch of imagination can they be permitted to employ musclemen and goons for recovery of their dues even from a defaulting party.”
The appellant bank claimed that the observations made by the High Court were unjustified and unnecessary for deciding the case. The following question arose:
Should part of the impugned judgement be expunged so that it may not adversely affect an ongoing criminal investigation?
The High Court declined to expunge the observations it had made as there were no reason to. It further clarified that the order would not influence the proceedings taken against the bank or its employees. The appellants were further asked to pay the costs of litigation to the respondent which amounted to Rs.25,000/-
Learnings from the case
It is expected of the bank to treat their customers with utmost sincerity and any default by the agent, staff or employee on behalf of the bank is liable to be penalized. The Reserve Bank of India views complaints regarding violation and adoption of abusive practices seriously and has imposed a ban on banks using recovery agents, musclemen or goons from using any such practices. Banks are to strictly adhere to the BCSBI Code in regard to collection of dues. Furthermore as proved by the above case, as long as there is no influence on an ongoing criminal investigation there is no reason for a court to expunge its orders related to the proceedings.