A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court has held that the Centre cannot entrust the charge of a Debts Recovery Tribunal (DRT) to any other DRT outside the State and that the only course open to it is to authorise a presiding officer of any other tribunal within the State to discharge the functions of the DRT.
The Bench passed the verdict while allowing an appeal filed by a jewellery firm from Thrissur and others against a single judge’s judgment upholding a notification entrusting the charge of presiding officer of the Ernakulam Debts Recovery Tribunal-II to the Bangalore DRT presiding officer.
Quashing the notification, the Bench observed that the view adopted by the Single Judge was not correct, “because, if and when the office of the tribunal under the Act, 1993 (Recovery of Debts and Bankruptcy Act) falls vacant, the course open to the Centre 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 will be more beneficial and accessible to the litigant public.”
The petitioners contended that the order giving additional charge of the presiding officer of the Ernakulam DRT to the Bangalore DRT presiding officer was ultra vires of sub-section (2)(a) and (b) of Section 4 of the Recovery of Debts and Bankruptcy Act, 1993, which was incorporated in 2016 by an amendment. In fact, the amendment to the Act had taken away the provision, which enabled the Centre to authorise the presiding officer of one DRT to discharge the functions of another DRT.
The petitioners sought a direction to the Centre to entrust the additional charge of Debt Recovery Tribunal-II, Ernakulam, to any presiding officer or judicial member of any other tribunal till a regular incumbent joins as a presiding officer in Debt Recovery Tribunal- II, Ernakulam.