The Kerala High Court has ruled that charge of a Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) cannot be given to any other presiding officer of any other DRT outside the State.
The Court was hearing a plea filed by a jewellery firm from Thrissur and others against a Single Judge’s verdict who had upheld the notification issued in this regard by the Central government.
The Bench comprising Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chali quashed the notification and observed, “there is no doubt that the view adopted by the learned single Judge in the impugned judgment is not correct, because, if and when the office of the Tribunal under the Act, 1993 falls vacant, the course open to the Central Government is only to authorise the Presiding Officer of any other Tribunal constituted under any other law within the jurisdictional State, to discharge the functions of the Presiding Officer of a DRT, which would be more beneficial and accessible to the litigant public. That being so, we are of the definite opinion that the stand taken by the learned single Judge cannot be sustained in law and, therefore, Exhibit-P1 notification dated 4.1.2021 to the extend entrusting the additional charge to the Presiding Officer of DRT-II, Bangalore, to function as the Presiding Officer, of DRT-II, Ernakulam has to be quashed.”
The bench also noted that, “Going by the provisions of the Amended Act, 1993 and consequent to the substitution of sub-section (2) of Section 4, it is clear that when there is a vacancy, the Central Government is vested with the powers only to authorise a Presiding Officer of any other Tribunal constituted by the Central Government in the State under any other law for the time being in force to discharge the functions of the Presiding Officer of a Debt Recovery Tribunal under the Act, 1993. This would be more clear, on a reading of the unamended sub-section (2) of Section 4 of Act, 1993 that even though the Central Government was vested with powers, to authorise the Presiding Officer of one Tribunal to discharge also the functions of the Presiding Officer of another Tribunal, that was taken away consequent to the substitution of subsection (2) of Section 4 of Act, 1993, by virtue of Section 27 of the Amendment Act 44 of 2016.”