Views sought on Bill to take debt tribunals online

A parliamentary panel has sought inputs from stakeholders on amending laws to take the processes of debt recovery tribunals online.

The Enforcement of Security Interest and Recovery of Debts Laws and Miscellaneous Provisions (Amendment) Bill, 2016, aims to amend the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002, the Recovery of Debts due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1993, the Indian Stamp Act, 1899, and the Depositories Act, 1996.

The Bill was referred to a joint parliamentary committee under the chairmanship of Bhupender Yadav. Views on the Bill can be offered till June 29.

The amendment of the debt recovery law will computerise processing of tribunal cases for faster disposal. According to the Bill, application or written statement will be filed in electronic form and authenticated by digital signatures. Summons may be required to be served in electronic form too. Orders may be made in electronic form as well and deemed to have been served.

"The debt tribunals will become the country's first online courts," Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said in March.

Changes in the loan foreclosure law will enable non-institutional investors to invest in security receipts issued by asset reconstruction companies, which buy bad loans from banks at a discount.

Definitions of debt and security interest will be widened to include intangible assets. The changes will allow corporate bond and debenture trustees to use provisions of the loan foreclosure law. Only banks and financial institutions can now use these provisions in cases of bond default. Asset reconstruction companies will be given powers to acquire and manage encumbered assets on insolvency. The Bill is important for implementation of the Bankruptcy Code as well.

The changes may offer "secured creditors" the first right to auction an asset in order to recover dues.

The bill, when enacted, may take precedence over state laws. The amendments will also aim at reducing the number of adjournments so that litigation time is reduced.

Debt tribunals will be empowered to pass ex parte orders. Recovery certificates issued by presiding officers will be deemed a decree of court.

The gross non-performing assets of public sector banks grew from Rs 2.67 lakh crore (5.43 per cent of gross advances) in March 2015 to Rs 4.76 crore (9.32 per cent) in March 2016.

Stressed assets - gross NPAs plus standard restructured assets-- of public sector banks grew to Rs 7.33 lakh crore in March 2016 from Rs 6.62 lakh crore a year ago.

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