Debt Tribunals On Recovery Path

New Delhi, October 20: | Updated: Oct 21 2002, 05:30am hrs
Debt recovery tribunals (DRTs), first set up in 1994 to expedite payment of outstanding dues towards banks and financial institutions, disposed of 23,393 cases involving a total amount of Rs 18,556 crore till March 31. However, recovery in these cases has been a paltry Rs 4,737 crore, according to figures compiled by the Indian Banks Association (IBA).

Interestingly, recovery efforts have picked up only in the last three years. A sum of Rs 4,090 crore was recovered between April 1999 and March 2002. In fiscal 2000, 3,888 cases involving Rs 2,806 crore were settled and yielded Rs 752 crore, while in the next year 4,637 cases involving Rs 4,413 crore led to a recovery of Rs 1,185 crore. The last fiscal saw disposal of 8,931 cases involving Rs 8,220 crore leading to a recovery of Rs 2,153 crore in dues.

Explaining the spurt in number of cases disposed of last year, officials said DRTs had initially faced serious hurdles in functioning related to both staff and infrastructure as well as opposition from the legal profession. Various writ petitions were filed in high courts across the country against the validity of the Recovery of Debts Due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act of 1993. However, the Supreme Court in March 2002 upheld the legislation as valid.

Moreover, over the last two years or so, extra efforts had been made to augment availability of suitable staff and requisite infrastructure including office premises, furniture, computers, etc. In most cases the tribunals and appellate tribunals had been working out of rented premises or from bank offices. DRTs have attributed the slack recovery till as recently as 2000 to lack of enough legal and recovery officers, normally loaned from courts and banks.

Originally, the government had envisaged establishment of 10 recovery tribunals and one appellate tribunal. Subsequ-ently, though, it decided to set up 22 DRTs and five DRATs in all. Seven DRTs were set up in the last one year alone at Delhi, Kolkata, Lucknow, Pune, Ranchi, Visakhapatnam and Coimbatore.

The highest number of cases so far have been filed with Chennai DRT No 1 (established in 1994) 5,076 followed by Bangalore with 5,049, Ahmedabad 4,047 and Hyderabad 3,933 cases. The respective amounts involved in these cases were Rs 8,033 crore, Rs 2,153 crore, Rs 9,043 crore and Rs 10,348 crore.