Himachal Pradesh High Court dismissed the petition stating that writ petition assailing initiation of proceedings under section 13(4) of SARFAESI Act is not maintainable as aggrieved party has a remedy of an appeal under Section 17 of SARFAESI Act to approach the Debt Recovery Tribunal.
Facts- The petitioner has preferred the present petitioner for grant of the relief with an appropriate writ or direction or order in the nature of certiorari to quash/set aside all the actions undertaken under provisions of the Securitization and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Securities Interest Act, 2002 (SARFAESI Act, 2002”), against the petitioner purportedly issued by respondent No. 2 u/s. 13(2), SARFAESI Act, 2002 and notices purportedly issued by respondent No. 2 u/s. 13(4) SARFAESI Act, 2002.
Notably, the moot question, involved here is whether the writ petition filed by the petitioner assailing the action of the Bank in issuing notice u/s. 13(2) and thereafter u/s. 13(4) of the SARFAESI Act is maintainable or not.
Conclusion- Hon’ble Supreme Court, in G. Vikram Kumar vs. State Bank of Hyderabad, has held that the writ petition assailing the action of the Bank under Section 13(4) of the Act is not maintainable and the aggrieved party has a remedy of an appeal under Section 17 to approach the Debt Recovery Tribunal. It was further held that the High Court erred in entertaining writ petition since statutory alternative remedy was available.
Held that the instant petition is not maintainable and is accordingly dismissed leaving open to the petitioner-firm to avail remedy under Section 17 of the SARFAESI Act as and when Section 13(4) thereof is invoked by the respondent-Bank.
FULL TEXT OF THE JUDGMENT/ORDER OF HIMACHAL PRADESH HIGH COURT
The instant petition has been filed for grant of the following substantive reliefs:-
a) That the Hon’ble Court may kindly be pleased to issue writ in the nature of mandamus directing respondent No. 2 to place the Loan Account of the petitioner to respondent No. 3-Designated Committee constituted under Framework for Revival and Rehabilitation of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises MSMEs, seeking restructuring of the said Loan Account, in accordance with the RBI Circular dated 17.03.2016 (Annexure P/2).
b) Issue an appropriate writ/order/direction especially in nature of mandamus for directing respondents No. 2 & 3 for implementing the Framework for Revival and Rehabilitation (MSMEs) issued by the RBI (Annexure P-2) in true letter and spirit.
c) Issue an appropriate writ or direction or oder to respondent No. 2 for setting aside the order or direction declaring the Loan Account of the petitioner as NPA, since the same is contrary to settled principles of law and with the further prayer to treat the said Loan Account as standard as on date.
d) Issue an appropriate writ or direction or order in the nature of certiorari to quash/set aside all the actions undertaken under provisions of the Securitization and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Securities Interest Act, 2002 (SARFAESI Act, 2002”), against the petitioner including but not limited to: Notices dated 04.03.2023 purportedly issued by respondent No. 2 under Section 13(2), SARFAESI Act, 2002 (Ann. P/3), notices dated 25.04.2023 (Ann. P/4) and 18.05.2023 (Ann.P/7) purportedly issued by respondent No. 2 under Section 13(4) SARFAESI Act, 2002.
e) Set aside all measures initiated/undertaken by respondent No. 3 Bank under Sections 13 & 14 of SARFAESI Act, 2002 read with the Security Enforcement Rules, 2002, pursuant and subsequent to which the impugned notices were issued.
f) Grant stay on the operation of all coercive action(s) against the petitioner undertaken by respondent No. 3 in relation to the Loan Account o the petitioners, including the proposed sale, during the pendency of the present writ petition.
g) That the present civil writ petition may be allowed with cost to the tune of Rs. 50 lakh in favour of the petitioner.
1(a). Learned counsel for respondent No. 2 Shri Arvind Sharma, Advocate, has raised preliminary objection regarding maintainability of the instant petition. He would argue that once proceedings under the SARFAESI Act have been initiated, then the party aggrieved has to avail of the remedy under SARFAESI Act itself and no writ petition would lie or be maintainable much less entertainable. He would further contend that the instant case not only the proceedings under Section 13(2) but proceedings under Section 13(4) of the SARFAESI Act stand initiated and if at all the petitioner has any grievance then it is required to approach the concerned Debt Recovery Tribunal under Section 17 of the SARFAESI Act in terms of the settled Law.
1(b). In substance, the moot question, at this stage, is whether the writ petition filed by the petitioner assailing the action of the Bank in issuing notice under Section 13(2) and thereafter under Section 13(4) of the SARFAESI Act is maintainable or not.
2. Identical issue came up before this Court for consideration in CWP No. 4831 of 2023, titled as M/s Kartik Food vs. State of H.P. & Anr., wherein it was held that if the proceedings have been initiated under Securitization and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Securities Interest Act, 2002 (for short ‘SARFAESI Act’) and/or any proposed action is to be taken and the borrower is aggrieved by any of the actions of the private bank/bank/ARC, borrower has to avail the remedy under the SARFAESI Act and no writ petition would lie and/or is maintainable and/or entertainable, save and except, to limited extent as indicated in para 18 of the Judgment rendered by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in M/s South Indian Bank Ltd. & ors. vs. Naveen Mathew Philip & anr. 2023 6 SCALE 224.
3. It shall be apt to reproduce paras 13 to 17 of the Judgment rendered by this Court in M/s Kartik Food case (supra), which read as under:-
13. The Hon’ble Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the writ petition involving private individuals over a financial transaction is not maintainable and such parties cannot defeat the objectives of the Act by approaching the High Court and seeking its interference. The alternative remedy being effective and efficacious, the extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, either be a writ of certiorari or mandamus, ought not to have been invoked.
14. Equally settled is the position of law that where an effective and efficacious Forum in commercial matter has been constituted through a statute, then the interference by the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution is not permissible.
15. The objects and reasons behind the Act are very clear and were considered in Chemicals Ltd.’s case (supra) and all these aspects have been duly taken note by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in its very recent judgment in M/s South Indian Bank Ltd. & ors. vs. Naveen Mathew Philip & anr. 2023 6 SCALE 224. It shall be apt to reproduce paras 15 to 18 thereof, which read as under:-
“15. The object and reasons behind the Act 54 of 2002 are very clear as observed by this Court in Mardia Chemicals Ltd. v. Union of India, (2004) 4 SCC 311. While it facilitates a faster and smoother mode of recovery sans any interference from the Court, it does provide a fair mechanism in the form of the Tribunal being manned by a legally trained mind. The Tribunal is clothed with a wide range of powers to set aside an illegal order, and thereafter, grant consequential reliefs, including re-possession and payment of compensation and costs. Section 17(1) of the SARFAESI Act gives an expansive meaning to the expression “any person”, who could approach the Tribunal.
16. Approaching the High Court for the consideration of an offer by the borrower is also frowned upon by this Court. A writ of mandamus is a prerogative writ. In the absence of any legal right, the Court cannot exercise the said power. More circumspection is required in a financial transaction, particularly when one of the parties would not come within the purview of Article 12 of the Constitution of India.When a statute prescribes a particular mode, an attempt to circumvent shall not be encouraged by a writ court. A litigant cannot avoid the noncompliance of approaching the Tribunal which requires the prescription of fees and use the constitutional remedy as an alternative. We wish to quote with profit a recent decision of this Court in Radha Krishan Industries v. State of H.P., (2021) 6 SCC 771,
“25. In this background, it becomes necessary for this Court, to dwell on the “rule of alternate remedy” and its judicial exposition. In Whirlpool Corpn. v. Registrar of Trade Marks (1998) 8 SCC 1, a two-Judge Bench of this Court after reviewing the case law on this point, noted: (SCC pp. 9-10, paras 14-15)
“14. The power to issue prerogative writs under Article 226 of the Constitution is plenary in nature and is not limited by any other provision of the Constitution. This power can be exercised by the High Court not only for issuing writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari for the enforcement of any of the Fundamental Rights contained in Part III of the Constitution but also for “any other purpose”. 15. Under Article 226 of the Constitution, the High Court, having regard to the facts of the case, has a discretion to entertain or not to entertain a writ petition. But the High Court has imposed upon itself certain restrictions one of which is that if an effective and efficacious remedy is available, the High Court would not normally exercise its jurisdiction.
But the alternative remedy has been consistently held by this Court not to operate as a bar in at least three contingencies, namely, where the writ petition has been filed for the enforcement of any of the Fundamental Rights or where there has been a violation of the principle of natural justice or where the order or proceedings are wholly without jurisdiction or the vires of an Act is challenged. There is a plethora of case-law on this point but to cut down this circle of forensic whirlpool, we would rely on some old decisions of the evolutionary era of the constitutional law as they still hold the field”.
26. Following the dictum of this Court in Whirlpool Corpn. v. Registrar of Trade Marks [(1998) 8 SCC 1], in Harbanslal Sahnia v. Indian Oil Corpn. Ltd. [(2003) 2 SCC 107], this Court noted that: (Harbanslal Sahnia case, SCC p. 110, para 7)
“7. So far as the view taken by the High Court that the remedy by way of recourse to arbitration clause was available to the appellants and therefore the writ petition filed by the appellants was liable to be dismissed is concerned, suffice it to observe that the rule of exclusion of writ jurisdiction by availability of an alternative remedy is a rule of discretion and not one of compulsion. In an appropriate case, in spite of availability of the alternative remedy, the High Court may still exercise its writ jurisdiction in at least three contingencies:
(i) where the writ petition seeks enforcement of any of the fundamental rights;
(ii) where there is failure of principles of natural justice; or
(iii) where the orders or proceedings are wholly without jurisdiction or the vires of an Act is challenged. (See Whirlpool Corpn. v. Registrar of Trade Marks [(1998) 8 SCC 1].)
The present case attracts applicability of the first two contingencies. Moreover, as noted, the appellants’ dealership, which is their bread and butter, came to be terminated for an irrelevant and non-existent cause. In such circumstances, we feel that the appellants should have been allowed relief by the High Court itself instead of driving them to the need of initiating arbitration proceedings.”
27. The principles of law which emerge are that: 27.1. The power under Article 226 of the Constitution to issue writs can be exercised not only for the enforcement of fundamental rights, but for any other purpose as well.
27.2. The High Court has the discretion not to entertain a writ petition. One of the restrictions placed on the power of the High Court is where an effective alternate remedy is available to the aggrieved person.
27.3. Exceptions to the rule of alternate remedy arise where:
(a) the writ petition has been filed for the enforcement of a fundamental right protected by Part III of the Constitution;
(b) there has been a violation of the principles of natural justice;
(c) the order or proceedings are wholly without jurisdiction; or
(d) the vires of a legislation is challenged.
27.4. An alternate remedy by itself does not divest the High Court of its powers under Article 226 of the Constitution in an appropriate case though ordinarily, a writ petition should not be entertained when an efficacious alternate remedy is provided by law.
27.5. When a right is created by a statute, which itself prescribes the remedy or procedure for enforcing the right or liability, resort must be had to that particular statutory remedy before invoking the discretionary remedy under Article 226 of the Constitution. This rule of exhaustion of statutory remedies is a rule of policy, convenience and discretion.
27.6. In cases where there are disputed questions of fact, the High Court may decide to decline jurisdiction in a writ petition. However, if the High Court is objectively of the view that the nature of the controversy requires the exercise of its writ jurisdiction, such a view would not readily be interfered with.”
17. We shall reiterate the position of law regarding the interference of the High Courts in matters pertaining to the SARFAESI Act by quoting a few of the earlier decisions of this Court wherein the said practice has been deprecated while requesting the High Courts not to entertain such cases.
“18. From the decisions referred to above, the position that emerges is that a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India may be maintainable against (i) the State (Government); (ii) an authority; (iii) a statutory body; (iv) an instrumentality or agency of the State; (v) a company which is financed and owned by the State; (vi) a private body run substantially on State funding; (vii) a private body discharging public duty or positive obligation of public nature; and (viii) a person or a body under liability to discharge any function under any statute, to compel it to perform such a statutory function.
26. A company registered under the Companies Act for the purposes of carrying on any trade or business is a private enterprise to earn livelihood and to make profits out of such activities. Banking is also a kind of profession and a commercial activity, the primary motive behind it can well be said to earn returns and profits. Since time immemorial, such activities have been carried on by individuals generally. It is a private affair of the company though the case of nationalized banks stands on a different footing.
There may well be companies, in which majority of the share capital may be contributed out of the State funds and in that view of the matter there may be more participation or dominant participation of the State in managing the affairs of the company. But in the present case we are concerned with a banking company which has its own resources to raise its funds without any contribution or shareholding by the State. It has its own Board of Directors elected by its shareholders.
It works like any other private company in the banking business having no monopoly status at all. Any company carrying on banking business with a capital of five lakhs will become a scheduled bank. All the same, banking activity as a whole carried on by various banks undoubtedly has an impact and effect on the economy of the country in general. Money of the shareholders and the depositors is with such companies, carrying on banking activity. The banks finance the borrowers on any given rate of interest at a particular time. They advance loans as against securities.
Therefore, it is obviously necessary to have regulatory check over such activities in the interest of the company itself, the shareholders, the depositors as well as to maintain the proper financial equilibrium of the national economy. The banking companies have not been set up for the purposes of building the economy of the State; on the other hand such private companies have been voluntarily established for their own purposes and interest but their activities are kept under check so that their activities may not go wayward and harm the economy in general.
A private banking company with all freedom that it has, has to act in a manner that it may not be in conflict with or against the fiscal policies of the State and for such purposes, guidelines are provided by Reserve Bank so that a proper fiscal discipline, to conduct its affairs in carrying on its business, is maintained. So as to ensure adherence to such fiscal discipline, if need be, at times even the management of the company can be taken over. Nonetheless, as observed earlier, these are all regulatory measures to keep a check and provide guidelines and not a participatory dominance or control over the affairs of the company.
For other companies in general carrying on other business activities, maybe manufacturing, other industries or any business, such checks are provided under the provisions of the Companies Act, as indicated earlier. There also, the main consideration is that the company itself may not sink because of its own mismanagement or the interest of the shareholders or people generally may not be jeopardized for that reason.
Besides taking care of such interest as indicated above, there is no other interest of the State, to control the affairs and management of the private companies. Care is taken in regard to the industries covered under the Industries
(Development and Regulation) Act, 1951 that their production, which is important for the economy, may not go down, yet the business activity is carried on by such companies or corporations which only remains a private activity of the entrepreneurs/companies.
27. Such private companies would normally not be amenable to the writ jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution. But in certain circumstances a writ may issue to such private bodies or persons as there may be statutes which need to be complied with by all concerned including the private companies.
For example, there are certain legislations like the Industrial Disputes Act, the Minimum Wages Act, the Factories Act or for maintaining proper environment, say the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 or the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 etc. or statutes of the like nature which fasten certain duties and responsibilities statutorily upon such private bodies which they are bound to comply with. If they violate such a statutory provision a writ would certainly be issued for compliance with those provisions.
For instance, if a private employer dispenses with the service of its employee in violation of the provisions contained under the Industrial Disputes Act, in innumerable cases the High Court interfered and has issued the writ to the private bodies and the companies in that regard. But the difficulty in issuing a writ may arise where there may not be any non-compliance with or violation of any statutory provision by the private body. In that event a writ may not be issued at all. Other remedies, as may be available, may have to be resorted to.”
“42. There is another reason why the impugned order should be set aside. If Respondent 1 had any tangible grievance against the notice issued under Section 13(4) or action taken under Section 14, then she could have availed remedy by filing an application under Section 17(1). The expression “any person” used in Section 17(1) is of wide import.
It takes within its fold, not only the borrower but also the guarantor or any other person who may be affected by the action taken under Section 13(4) or Section 14. Both, the Tribunal and the Appellate Tribunal are empowered to pass interim orders under Sections 17 and 18 and are required to decide the matters within a fixed time schedule. It is thus evident that the remedies available to an aggrieved person under the SARFAESI Act are both expeditious and effective.
43. Unfortunately, the High Court overlooked the settled law that the High Court will ordinarily not entertain a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution if an effective remedy is available to the aggrieved person and that this rule applies with greater rigour in matters involving recovery of taxes, cess, fees, other types of public money and the dues of banks and other financial institutions.
In our view, while dealing with the petitions involving challenge to the action taken for recovery of the public dues, etc. the High Court must keep in mind that the legislations enacted by Parliament and State Legislatures for recovery of such dues are a code unto themselves inasmuch as they not only contain comprehensive procedure for recovery of the dues but also envisage constitution of quasijudicial bodies for redressal of the grievance of any aggrieved person. Therefore, in all such cases, the High Court must insist that before availing remedy under Article 226 of the Constitution, a person must exhaust the remedies available under the relevant statute.
44. While expressing the aforesaid view, we are conscious that the powers conferred upon the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution to issue to any person or authority, including in appropriate cases, any Government, directions, orders or writs including the five prerogative writs for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by Part III or for any other purpose are very wide and there is no express limitation on exercise of that power but, at the same time, we cannot be oblivious of the rules of self-imposed restraint evolved by this Court, which every High Court is bound to keep in view while exercising power under Article 226 of the Constitution.
45. It is true that the rule of exhaustion of alternative remedy is a rule of discretion and not one of compulsion, but it is difficult to fathom any reason why the High Court should entertain a petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution and pass interim order ignoring the fact that the petitioner can avail effective alternative remedy by filing application, appeal, revision, etc. and the particular legislation contains a detailed mechanism for redressal of his grievance.
55. It is a matter of serious concern that despite repeated pronouncement of this Court, the High Courts continue to ignore the availability of statutory remedies under the DRT Act and the SARFAESI Act and exercise jurisdiction under Article 226 for passing orders which have serious adverse impact on the right of banks and other financial institutions to recover their dues. We hope and trust that in future the High Courts will exercise their discretion in such matters with greater caution, care and circumspection.”
“5. We have considered the submissions on behalf of the parties. Normally this Court in exercise of jurisdiction under Article 136 of the Constitution is loath to interfere with an interim order passed in a pending proceeding before the High Court, except in special circumstances, to prevent manifest injustice or abuse of the process of the court. In the present case, the facts are not in dispute.
The discretionary jurisdiction under Article 226 is not absolute but has to be exercised judiciously in the given facts of a case and in accordance with law. The normal rule is that a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution ought not to be
entertained if alternate statutory remedies are available, except in cases falling within the well-defined exceptions as observed in CIT v. Chhabil Dass Agarwal [(2014) 1 SCC 603], as follows: (SCC p. 611, para 15)
“15. Thus, while it can be said that this Court has recognised some exceptions to the rule of alternative remedy i.e. where the statutory authority has not acted in accordance with the provisions of the enactment in question, or in defiance of the fundamental principles of judicial procedure, or has resorted to invoke the provisions which are repealed, or when an order has been passed in total violation of the principles of natural justice, the proposition laid down in Thansingh Nathmal v. Supt. of Taxes [AIR 1964 SC 1419], Titaghur Paper Mills Co. Ltd. v. State of Orissa [(1983) 2 SCC 433: 1983 SCC (Tax) 131] and other similar judgments that the High Court will not entertain a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution if an effective alternative remedy is available to the aggrieved person or the statute under which the action complained of has been taken itself contains a mechanism for redressal of grievance still holds the field. Therefore, when a statutory forum is created by law for redressal of grievances, a writ petition should not be entertained ignoring the statutory dispensation.” 8. The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the SARFAESI Act states that the banking and financial sector in the country was felt not to have a level playing field in comparison to other participants in the financial markets in the world. The financial institutions in India did not have the power to take possession of securities and sell them.
The existing legal framework relating to commercial transactions had not kept pace with changing commercial practices and financial sector reforms resulting in tardy recovery of defaulting loans and mounting non-performing assets of banks and financial institutions. Narasimhan Committee I and II as also the Andhyarujina Committee constituted by the Central Government Act had suggested enactment of new legislation for securitisation and empowering banks and financial institutions to take possession of securities and sell them without court intervention which would enable them to realise long-term assets, manage problems of liquidity, asset liability mismatches and improve recovery.
The proceedings under the Recovery of Debts Due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1993 (hereinafter referred to as “the DRT Act”) with passage of time, had become synonymous with those before regular courts affecting expeditious adjudication. All these aspects have not been kept in mind and considered before passing the impugned order.
9. Even prior to the SARFAESI Act, considering the alternate remedy available under the DRT Act it was held in Punjab National Bank v. O.C. Krishnan [(2001) 6 SCC 569] that: (SCC p. 570, para 6)
“6. The Act has been enacted with a view to provide a special procedure for recovery of debts due to the banks and the financial institutions. There is a hierarchy of appeal provided in the Act, namely, filing of an appeal under Section 20 and this fast-track procedure cannot be allowed to be derailed either by taking recourse to proceedings under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution or by filing a civil suit, which is expressly barred.
Even though a provision under an Act cannot expressly oust the jurisdiction of the court under
Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution, nevertheless, when there is an alternative remedy available, judicial prudence demands that the Court refrains from exercising its jurisdiction under the said constitutional provisions. This was a case where the High Court should not have entertained the petition under Article 227 of the Constitution and should have directed the respondent to take recourse to the appeal mechanism provided by the Act.”
15. It is the solemn duty of the court to apply the correct law without waiting for an objection to be raised by a party, especially when the law stands well settled. Any departure, if permissible, has to be for reasons discussed, of the case falling under a defined exception, duly discussed after noticing the relevant law. In financial matters grant of ex parte interim orders can have a deleterious effect and it is not sufficient to say that the aggrieved has the remedy to move for vacating the interim order. Loans by financial institutions are granted from public money generated at the taxpayer’s expense.
Such loan does not become the property of the person taking the loan, but retains its character of public money given in a fiduciary capacity as entrustment by the public. Timely repayment also ensures liquidity to facilitate loan to another in need, by circulation of the money and cannot be permitted to be blocked by frivolous litigation by those who can afford the luxury of the same. The caution required, as expressed in United Bank of India v. Satyawati Tondon [(2010) 8 SCC 110: (2010) 3 SCC (Civ) 260], has also not been kept in mind before passing the impugned interim order: (SCC pp. 123-24, para 46)
“46. It must be remembered that stay of an action initiated by the State and/or its agencies/instrumentalities for recovery of taxes, cess, fees, etc. seriously impedes execution of projects of public importance and disables them from discharging their constitutional and legal obligations towards the citizens. In cases relating to recovery of the dues of banks, financial institutions and secured creditors, stay granted by the High Court would have serious adverse impact on the financial health of such bodies/institutions, which (sic will) ultimately prove detrimental to the economy of the nation.
Therefore, the High Court should be extremely careful and circumspect in exercising its discretion to grant stay in such matters. Of course, if the petitioner is able to show that its case falls within any of the exceptions carved out in Baburam Prakash Chandra Maheshwari v. Antarim Zila Parishad [AIR 1969 SC 556], Whirlpool Corpn. v. Registrar of Trade Marks [(1998) 8 SCC 1] and Harbanslal Sahnia v. Indian Oil Corpn. Ltd. [(2003) 2 SCC 107] and some other judgments, then the High Court may, after considering all the relevant parameters and public interest, pass an appropriate interim order.”
“18. Even otherwise, it is required to be noted that a writ petition against the private financial institution – ARC – the appellant herein under Article 226 of the Constitution of India against the proposed action/actions under Section 13(4) of the SARFAESI Act can be said to be not maintainable. In the present case, the ARC proposed to take action/actions under the SARFAESI Act to recover the borrowed amount as a secured creditor.
The ARC as such cannot be said to be performing public functions which are normally expected to be performed by the State authorities. During the course of a commercial transaction and under the contract, the bank/ARC lent the money to the borrowers herein and therefore the said activity of the bank/ARC cannot be said to be as performing a public function which is normally expected to be performed by the State authorities.
If proceedings are initiated under the SARFAESI Act and/or any proposed action is to be taken and the borrower is aggrieved by any of the actions of the private bank/bank/ARC, borrower has to avail the remedy under the SARFAESI Act and no writ petition would lie and/or is maintainable and/or entertainable. Therefore, decisions of this Court in Praga Tools Corpn. v. C.A. Imanual, [(1969) 1 SCC 585] and Ramesh Ahluwalia v. State of Punjab, [(2012) 12 SCC 331: (2013) 3 SCC (L&S) 45: 4 SCEC 715] relied upon by the learned counsel appearing on behalf of the borrowers are not of any assistance to the borrowers.
21. Applying the law laid down by this Court in State Bank of Travancore v. Mathew K.C., [(2018) 3 SCC 85: (2018) 2 SCC (Civ) 41] to the facts on hand, we are of the opinion that filing of the writ petitions by the borrowers before the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India is an abuse of process of the court. The writ petitions have been filed against the proposed action to be taken under Section 13(4).
As observed hereinabove, even assuming that the communication dated 13-8-2015 was a notice under Section 13(4), in that case also, in view of the statutory, efficacious remedy available by way of appeal under Section 17 of the SARFAESI Act, the High Court ought not to have entertained the
writ petitions. Even the impugned orders passed by the High Court directing to maintain the status quo with respect to the possession of the secured properties on payment of Rs 1 crore only (in all Rs 3 crores) is absolutely unjustifiable. The dues are to the extent of approximately Rs 117 crores.
The ad interim relief has been continued since 2015 and the secured creditor is deprived of proceeding further with the action under the SARFAESI Act. Filing of the writ petition by the borrowers before the High Court is nothing but an abuse of process of court. It appears that the High Court has initially granted an ex parte ad interim order mechanically and without assigning any reasons. The High Court ought to have appreciated that by passing such an interim order, the rights of the secured creditor to recover the amount due and payable have been seriously prejudiced.
The secured creditor and/or its assignor have a right to recover the amount due and payable to it from the borrowers. The stay granted by the High Court would have serious adverse impact on the financial health of the secured creditor/assignor. Therefore, the High Court should have been extremely careful and circumspect in exercising its discretion while granting stay in such matters. In these circumstances, the proceedings before the High Court deserve to be dismissed.”
“36. In the instant case, although the respondent borrowers initially approached the Debts Recovery Tribunal by filing an application under Section 17 of the SARFAESI Act, 2002, but the order of the Tribunal indeed was appealable under Section 18 of the Act subject to the compliance of condition of pre-deposit and without exhausting the statutory remedy of appeal, the respondent borrowers approached the High Court by filing the writ application under Article 226 of the Constitution.
We deprecate such practice of entertaining the writ application by the High Court in exercise of jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution without exhausting the alternative statutory remedy available under the law. This circuitous route appears to have been adopted to avoid the condition of pre-deposit contemplated under 2nd proviso to Section 18 of the 2002 Act.”
16. From the aforesaid discussions, it is absolutely clear that if proceedings have been initiated under the Act and/or any proposed action is to be taken and the borrower is aggrieved by any of the actions of the private bank/bank/ARC, borrower has to avail the remedy under the Act and no writ petition would lie and/or is maintainable and/or entertainable save and except to a limited extent as has been indicated in para 18 of the judgment in M/s South Indian Bank Ltd.’s case (supra).
17. We may at this stage take note of a very recent judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in G. Vikram Kumar vs. State Bank of Hyderabad, AIR 2023 Supreme Court 2359, wherein the Hon’ble Supreme Court has again reiterated that the writ petition assailing the action of the Bank under Section 13(4) of the Act is not maintainable and the aggrieved party has a remedy of an appeal under Section 17 to approach the Debt Recovery Tribunal. It was further held that the High Court erred in entertaining writ petition since statutory alternative remedy was available. It shall be apt to reproduce para 8 of the judgment which reads as under:-
8. At the outset, it is required to be noted that what was challenged before the High Court by respondent no.1 in a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India was the e auction notice which was pursuant to the action initiated by the Bank in exercise of powers under Section 13(4) of the SARFAESI Act. At this stage it is required to be noted that Civil Appeal Nos. 31523153 of 2023 eauction was held/conducted on 31.08.2016 in which the appellant participated and was declared as a successful bidder and he made a payment of 25% of the bid amount on the very day i.e., on 31.08.2016. However, thereafter the respondent no.1 filed the writ petition before the High Court challenging the eauction notice dated 28.07.2016 on 14.09.2016 that is after conducting of the auction. It is required to be noted that against any steps taken by the Bank under Section 13(4) of the SARFAESI Act the aggrieved party has a remedy under the SARFAESI Act by way of appeal under Section 17 of the SARFAESI Act to approach the DRT. Therefore, in view of the availability of the alternative statutory remedy available by way of Civil Appeal Nos. 31523153 of 2023 proceedings/appeal under Section 17 of the SARFAESI Act, the High Court ought not to have entertained the writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India in which the e auction notice was under challenge. Therefore, the High Court has committed a very serious error in entertaining the writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India challenging the eauction notice issued by the Bank in exercise of power under Section 13(4) of the SARFAESI Act.
4. Likewise, this Court in a very recent decision rendered in CWP No. 4538 of 2023, titled as M/s Neel Kanth Yarn vs. Punjab National Bank & Ors., decided on 02.08.2023, after placing reliance on some of the judgments of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, as were relied upon in M/s Kartik case (supra), has clearly held that if the bank proceeds further under Section 13(4) of the SARFAESI Act, then the petitioner can file an application under Section 17 of the SARFAESI Act before the Debt Recovery Tribunal (for short ‘DRT’). It has further been clarified that DRT can go into the aspect of classifying an account as NPA and also as to whether the RBI guidelines have been violated on any aspect leading to declaring the account as NPA. Accordingly, the writ petition, in any case, would not be maintainable.
5. It shall be apt to reproduce the relevant observations as contained in paras 27 to 29 of the judgment, which read as under:-
27. From the statutory scheme and decisions noted here-in above, it is clear that this Court, in exercise of its jurisdiction, cannot go into the decision of respondent-bank in classifying the petitioner’s account as NPA. If the respondent-bank proceeds further and reaches Section 13(4) of the SARFAESI Act stage, the petitioner-firm can file application under Section 17 of the SARFAESI Act. The DRT can go into the aspect of classifying the account as NPA and also whether RBI guidelines have been violated on any aspect leading to declaring the account as NPA and taking recourse under the SARFAESI Act.
28. It has also been repeatedly held that the aspect of classifying an account as NPA is not justiciable in exercise of power of judicial review under Article 226 of the Constitution.
29. We are, therefore, of the opinion that the instant petition is not maintainable and is accordingly dismissed leaving open to the petitioner-firm to avail remedy under Section 17 of the SARFAESI Act as and when Section 13(4) thereof is invoked by the respondent-Bank. However, it is made clear that we have not expressed any opinion on the merits of the case and all issues are left open to be urged before the competent authority. Pending application(s), if any, also stands disposed of. The parties are left to bear their own costs.
6. In view of the aforesaid discussion and for the reasons stated above, the instant petition seeking quashing of the notices issued under Sections 13(2 as also 13(4) of the SARFAESI Act, is clearly not maintainable, as the remedy, if any, of the petitioner, lies before the concerned Debt Recovery Tribunal.
7. Accordingly, the instant petition is dismissed in the aforesaid terms, so also pending applications, if any.