Debt Recovery Bill, 2016 – An Overview

The Debt Recovery Tribunals (DRT) was primarily set up for the organized and speedy recovery of debts payable to banks and financial institutions. In this article, we review the Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT), purpose and resultant legislative improvements as well as key features of the Debt Recovery Bill, 2016.

Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT)

The proposal behind setting up of Debt Recovery Tribunals (DRTs) was to enable the following:

  • Transfer cases out of the civil courts; and
  • Offer technical expertise.

To begin with, DRTs were triumphant to a large extent in recovering substantial parts of bad debts. Nevertheless, this speedy legislation had some defects and their progress began to worsen due to delaying tactics by large and powerful borrowers, limited accountability and insufficient infrastructure.

Debt Recovery Bill

In order to address these shortcomings, the Union Finance Minister passed the Enforcement of Security Interest and Recovery of Debts Laws and Miscellaneous Provisions (Amendment) Bill, 2016 or known as the ‘Debt Recovery Bill’ in the Lok Sabha on May 11, 2016 to reinforce the DRTs and accelerate the resolution of stressed assets.

Purpose of Debt Recovery Bill

The Debt Recovery Bill seeks to make amendments in four laws namely the following:

  1. Securitization and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act (SARFESI), 2002
  2. Recovery of Debts due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act (RDDBFI), 1993
  3. Indian Stamp Act, 1899
  4. Depositories Act, 1996

Changes to SARFESI Act

  • Improvement in the rights of the asset reconstruction companies (ARCs) in the acquirement of assets of the debtor.
  • Taking account of the debenture trustee as a secured creditor.
  • Broadening the scope of powers of the RBI in the regulation of ARCs.
  • Expanding the power of the Central Registry (CERSAI) created under the Act.

Changes to Recovery of Debts due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1993 

  • Authorizing the banks to file cases in tribunals with control over the area of bank branch where the debt is pending.
  • The retirement age of Presiding Officers of the DRTs that has been increased from 62 to 65 years and that of the Chairpersons of the Appellate Tribunals from 65 to 67 years.
  • The bill enabling definite procedures including presentation of claims by parties and summons issued by tribunals under the Act should be undertaken in electronic form.
  • The Bill inserting a provision which permits the creditor to take control of a collateral security against which the debt was specified.

Changes to Indian Stamp Act

  • The Debt Recovery Bill seeking to modify the Indian Stamp Act, 1899 thus exempting the payment of stamp duty related to the transfer of financial assets in favor of ARCs.

Key Features of Debt Recovery Bill, 2016

  • Following the declaration made in the Union Budget in February 2016, the Government had released the Press Note 4 of 2016 dated May 6, 2016 thereby liberalizing foreign entry norms in asset reconstruction companies (ARCs) that are registered with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) by permitting 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) by means of the automatic route in ARCs. It had then planned amendments to bring the Securitization and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 (SARFAESI) in accordance with the dispensations provided under Press Note 4 by the introduction of the Enforcement of Security Interest and Recovery of Debt Laws and Miscellaneous Provisions (Amendment) Bill, 2016 (Proposed Amendment) passed in the Lower House of Parliament.
  • The Rajya Sabha in conclusion passed the Debt Recovery Bill on August 9, 2016 thus strengthening the DRTs and facilitating computerized processing of cases to accelerate resolution of stressed assets. The renovation is a welcome change which will aid banks to recover over Rs. 8 lakh crore of stressed assets and bad loans quicker. The changes will permit corporate bond and debenture trustees to utilize provisions of the loan foreclosure law.
  • The Bill is significant for implementation of the Bankruptcy Code too. The objective of the amendments proposed in the Bill is to advance the ease of doing business and make possible investment leading to superior economic growth and development.
  • While the Bankruptcy Code enables collective action of creditors, the proposed amendments to the SARFAESI and DRT Acts aim to make more efficient the processes of creditors independently taking action against the defaulting debtor.
  • The impact of these changes on debt recovery circumstances in the country, and the topic of rising NPAs will merely become clear in due course of time. Nevertheless the effort is admirable as it involves the systematic and appropriate implementation of the provisions.
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