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Small Industries Development Bank of India versus M/s. Sibco Investment Pvt. Ltd- Legal Position of NBFC in a civil suit.


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Dated: 2-6-2022

2022 (1) TMI 170 - Supreme Court

Legal Position of NBFC in a civil suit.

Section 45 MB of the RBI Act 1934. - Power of bank to prohibit acceptance of deposit and alienation of assets, Section 45 MC - Power of Bank to file winding up petition.

Section 35A of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 vests power in the RBI to give directions to banks and can take action, "to prevent the affairs of any banking company being conducted in a manner detrimental to the interests of the depositors or in a manner prejudicial to the interests of the banking company"

A conjoint reading of the statutory provisions, makes it abundantly clear that for ‘public interest’ the RBI is empowered to issue any directive to any banking institution, and to prohibit alienation of an NBFC’s property.

The term ‘Public interest’ has no rigid definition. It has to be understood and interpreted in reference to the context in which it is used. The concept derives its meaning from the statute where it occurs, the transaction involved, the state of society and its needs.

It is not necessary for RBI to mention a specific provision before issuing directions, for it to have statutory consequences. All that is required is the authority under the law, to issue such direction.

Therefore the RBI under Section 45-MB of the RBI Act, 1934 and 35-A of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 has the requisite authority to issue the communication dated 09th June, 1997. Now the omission by the RBI to mention any enabling provision, doesn’t change the nature and status of the direction.

The statutory arrangement and interpretation persuades to hold that actions in furtherance of grounds of ‘public policy’ by the RBI was justified, for issuing the Notification dated 10.04.1997. The notification itself clearly mentioned that it is issued for the benefit of "depositors and creditors" of CRB Capital.

The actual status of the RBI Notification would have a bearing on the claim against the defendant in the suit and subsequent proceeding/s. The plaintiff, as can be noted, always had the option of challenging its legality but they have never specifically challenged those in the Suit. In a way the plaintiff " waived its right" by not challenging the RBI notification then/at that past point of time in the suit proceedings.

The principle of waiver/acquiescence is applicable here.

When the legality of the RBI Notification is not under challenge, relief can’t be granted in the Suit without determining its "legality". This in our perception can by itself, put a quietus on the issue at hand - the plaintiff cannot be granted parity with its predecessor-in-interest, Shankar Lal Saraf, who was paid interest which accrued in July, 1997 despite the RBI directive of 09.06.1997.

The defendant defended this fallacy/aberration by clarifying that the payment to Shankar Lal Saraf was made before the defendant was in receipt of the RBI directive.

Hence, the plaintiff cannot claim any advantage for themselves or parity with its predecessor-in-interest, on this cause. It amounted to sub-silencio acceptance.

Suit barred by constructive res judicata.

The cause of action for the plaintiff accrued the first time, when the defendant allegedly failed to pay timely interest. Since such a claim was not raised in the writ court, the subsequent Suit of SIBCO is barred by the principle of Constructive Res Judicata.

Section 441(2) of the Companies Act, 1956 reveals that winding-up proceedings other than voluntary winding-up, are said to have commenced from the date of presentation of petition - A conjoint reading of Section 531 and 441(2) of the Companies Act, 1956 prima facie reveals that any transfer of property by or against a company in involuntary winding up, the suspect spell for deemed fraudulent transaction is six months before presentation of the winding up petition.

In the present case, the petition for winding-up was submitted by RBI on 22.05.1997 and admittedly, the transfer in Shankar Lal Saraf’s favour was executed in February, 1997. The defendant’s contention as to the transfer being in the suspect spell, may be deemed fraudulent, cannot be rejected. 

A question arose whether the present suit is barred by Constructive res judicata- It being decided that the cause of action for the plaintiff accrued the first time, when the defendant allegedly failed to pay timely interest. Since such a claim was not raised in the writ court/court of first instance, the subsequent Suit of SIBCO is barred by the principle of Constructive Res Judicata.

This narrative makes us understand that a NBFC governed by the Banking  Regulation Act, 1949 and the  Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934 along with Section 531 and 441(2) of the Companies Act, 1956 is too subject to the common law principles and the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 when in a civil suit before a Court of law.

 


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2022 (1) TMI 170 - Supreme Court

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