This Case Summary is written by Aanish Aggarwal from West Bengal National University of Juridical Science.
Facts of the Case
This case arose from a writ petition filed by Sujata Kapoor, who appeared as a bonafide purchaser of the property which was the main residential property occupied by B.R. Dougall.
The facts of the case are clear and simple. Late B.R. Dougall (hereinafter ‘BRD’) had the ownership of the property in dispute. BRD had acted as a personal guarantor in the loan deal between M/s. Atul Food Products and the respondent Union Bank of India. The loan was not received by the respondent and then the respondent began recovery proceedings for the same. Subsequently, a recovery certificate was issued by the Debt Recovery Tribunal following which BRD filed affidavits of his property. He said that he owned the property which was allegedly owned by Sujata Kapoor.
Whether Section 60(1)(ccc) of Code of Civil Procedure would be applicable or not.
One of the orders of the recovery certificate stated that BRD was specifically not supposed to create any third party interest in any of his immovable properties to the detriment of Union Bank of India. However, it was found that BRD had sold the property to her on a later date.
According to Section 29 of Recovery of Debts Due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act, provisions of the Income Tax Act(IT Act) were to be followed to recover the amount outstanding of the loan. The various provisions of the IT Act unequivocally said that the defaulter’s immovable property could be attached for the recovery of the debt. In response to the attachment of BRD’s residential property, Sujata Kapoor relied on Section 60(1)(ccc) of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (CPC), whose provisions were to be followed by the Court according to Rule 10 of the IT Act. Section 60(1)(ccc) reads as one main residential house and other buildings attached to it (with the material and the sites thereof and the land immediately apparent thereto and necessary for their enjoyment) belonging to a judgment debtor other than an agriculturist and occupied by him.
The Court in its judgment specifically discussed the scope of the judgment debtor in the case. The Court then called upon the Punjab Relief and Indebtedness Act (PRI), 1934 where the following provision was borrowed from. The Central Government had adopted the following from Section 35 of the PRI. The Court then proceeded in its judgement as saying that the expression “judgment debtor” and “debt” in Section 60(1)(ccc) of the CPC could not be said to have the same meaning of any regular judgment debtor or the debt. Rather the statement should be interpreted in light of Section 35 of the PRI.
Thereafter, the Court relied on the precedent given by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Surana Steels Pvt. Ltd. v. Deputy Commissioner of Income Tax and Others, where the Supreme Court followed a similar line of reasoning interpreting Section 115-J of the IT Act with the assistance of Section 205(b) of the Companies Act, 1956 which was the motivation behind that provision. The Delhi Court decided to follow a similar approach and decided to interpret the same in light of PRI, lest it might lead to wholly unintended benefits being showered upon “debtors” for whose benefit the said clause was not introduced, and causes injustice to creditors against whom it was never intended to be used as a shield.
The Court opined that Sujata Kapoor should rather bring a petition against BRD if she felt she was deceived by him and the house would be attached by the bank in accordance with the IT Act. The petitioner had also appealed to the Court under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution for the Right to Shelter. The Court also struck down this argument stating that the Rights provided to people are not absolute under the Indian Constitution and they come along with reasonable restrictions, which are applicable to the case since the Article did not intend to provide shelter to the people irrespective of their background. Pursuant to this discussion, the writ petition filed by the petitioner was dismissed.
The judgment given by the Court brings us to a lot of interesting conclusions. The Court does not take into account another recent judgment that was given in this fact, V.P. Arora v. Punjab National Bank. The Court in that case had also interpreted the relevance of Section 60(1)(ccc) of the CPC for a judgment debtor. In that case, a money decree was passed against O.P Arora, father of V.P Arora. V.P. Arora was a judgment debtor who acted as a guarantor in his personal capacity. After OP Arora died, his main residential property was attached by Punjab National Bank. Eventually, VP Arora became the owner of the property and question went to the Court to decide whether his property should be attached by the Bank since it came into the ownership of VP Arora following the attachment of property by the Bank. The Court in its judgment declared that it did not matter when the property was passed down to VP Arora. Rather, when VP Arora continues to be the judgment debtor in the case and continues to occupy the property as his primary residential house, then the property would be under the shelter of Section 60(1)(ccc). This was another case decided by Delhi High Court.
The Delhi High Court in Sujata Kapoor did not decide to indulge itself with the mechanisms of VP Arora. Sujata Kapoor had contended that she was the owner after the attachment of the property by Union Bank of India.
Another fact that is overlooked by Delhi High Court in this case is that the Supreme Court has also decided on a similar matter in the case of Kiran Bala v. Surinder Kumar. The Supreme Court in this judgment exercised the rights accorded to a person under Section 60(1)(ccc) of the CPC. The Supreme Court followed the law laid down by the statute without looking into the scope of the words “judgment debtor” or “debt”. The main stay of the judgment is that all the other Courts in the country are bound by the judgments made by the Supreme Court under Article 141 of the Indian Constitution. However, the Delhi High Court does not comment on the case in any manner whatsoever.
In the end, Sujata Kapoor did not have to let go of her house since BRD himself provided for the loan amount through other means. This meant that the Delhi High Court judgment was not implemented. Though the judgment does stand and is a measure for other courts to follow in the coming days. The judgment is probably unique in the fact that it construes the meaning of the words “judgment debtor” and “debt” of the Section 60(1)(ccc) of the CPC.
- Sujata Kapoor v. Union Bank of India And Ors., 12 December 2019, Writ Petition Civil 2404/2019
- P. Arora v. Punjab National Bank, 31 October 1991, 48 (1992) DLT 367
- Kiran Bala v. Surinder Kumar, 2 May 1996, 1996 AIR 2094
- Indian Legal Impetus, Singh and Associates, Issue 3 March 2020, https://singhassociates.in/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/ILI-March.pdf
- Bar And Bench, Interpretation of ‘judgement debtor’ in clause (ccc) to proviso 60(1) of the CPC – What the Delhi HC has held, https://www.barandbench.com/news/interpretation-of-judgment-debtor-in-clause-ccc-to-proviso-to-sec-601-cpc-what-the-delhi-hc-has-held
- Bar and Bench, Can a Financial Institution attach and sell your main residential house for recovering its debts?, https://www.barandbench.com/columns/can-a-financial-institution-attach-and-sell-your-one-main-residential-house-for-recovering-its-debts