A Delhi court has dismissed a suit filed by the State Bank of India (SBI) for the recovery of Rs 13.51 lakh, along with interest, against a loan defaulter, who had passed away.
District Judge Surinder S. Rathi stressed on the proactive responsibility of banks, especially a leading institution like the SBI, to ascertain the status of individuals before pursuing legal action against them.
The court had initially directed the bank to conduct an inquiry into Siya Nand's status, leading to the revelation that Nand had passed away two years before the suit was filed.
Subsequently, the court issued notices to the branch manager and the general manager (law, recovery and litigation) to explain why the bank pursued legal action against a deceased individual.
In response, the SBI acknowledged its mistake, assuring the court that appropriate action was being taken against the officials responsible for non-compliance with internal circulars.
The court noted the bank's acceptance of its error.
Highlighting the absence of specific procedures in the bank's standard operating procedures (SOPs) for verifying the status of individuals sought to be sued, the court underscored that a leading institution like the SBI should take proactive steps in this regard. It said that a bank should not proceed to sue a person without ascertaining whether they are alive or deceased.
The court acknowledged the SBI's acceptance of its suggestion that the bank's litigation officer would access the database of the chief registrar of births and deaths for future verifications.
Considering the unconditional apology tendered by the branch manager, the court discharged the notice issued to him.
While rejecting the suit on the grounds that a deceased person cannot be sued under the country's laws, the court recognised the SBI's commitment to course correction to prevent such errors in the future.
Consequently, no additional costs were imposed on the bank, except for the forfeiture of court fees already paid. The court reiterated the expectation that the SBI, as a leading nationalised bank, would uphold efficiency, professionalism, transparency, and ethics within the banking industry.
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