The Punjab and Haryana High Court in the case observed and has issued the contempt notice to the Presiding Officer of Debt Recovery Tribunal-II, Chandigarh, DRT-II for failure to submit CCTV footage of its proceedings, as sought by the Court.
It has been claimed by the officer that the footage is not available since CCTV cameras are not installed in the Tribunal.
Therefore, the court found that CCTV cameras are installed.
The Division bench comprising of Justice Sureshwar Thakur and Justice Sudeepti Sharma in the case observed and has remarked that it is clear, that hybrid system with video and audio picture, is in place at the DRT concerned. Thus, it is also clear from readings of the above said paragraph, that the working thereof is erratic, and the said, is a result of the Presiding Officer concerned, at his own whims rather the switching on and off the said system.
The court in the case pulled up the Presiding Officer for ‘rob(bing) the well purpose qua the transparency of the justice dispensation system,’ and that too prima facie “for ulterior motives.
The court in the case observed that the development came in a writ petition filed by IDFC First Bank wherein seeking directions to set aside the order passed by the Presiding officer whereby the officer allegedly directed restoration of physical possession of a mortgaged property to the borrowers ‘in complete violation’ of the directions issued by this High Court.
The court also sought CCTV footage of the proceedings from the said day, however the directions were not complied with.
Further, it has been directed by the said court that the concerned Presiding Officer to inform whether the video recording of proceedings is being carried out or not.
Therefore, the Officer had submitted that, that the CCTV clippings relating to the day i.e. January 12, 2024, are not available, owing to the fact that the CCTV camera is not installed in the Tribunal house of Debts Recovery Tribunal-2, Chandigarh.
The court in the case noted that the counsel appearing for the petitioner highlighted the orders passed by the High Court of a co-ordinate bench where it was recorded that as per the affidavit filed under Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Finance, Department of Financial Services, the infrastructure of hybrid hearing at Debt Recovery Tribunal-I, II and III is in place. Furthermore, dedicated personnel has been deputed for recording of the proceedings.
The court issued the show cause notice upon the Presiding Officer to explain as to why proceedings for contempt not be initiated against him for his making the above miscommunication, which but is prima facie completely ridden with lies.
The court also directed NIC to preserve the CCTV footage of the proceeding.
Further, the court directed the President of DRT Bar Association, Chandigarh to join the proceedings to assist the Court in the contempt petition.
The court observed that it is worthwhile to mention that a plea was filed by the DRT Bar Association Chandigarh, alleging the intemperate, erratic behaviour and working patterns of the same Presiding Officer and a detailed enquiry was prayed to be conducted in terms of Section 15 (2) of the Recovery of Debts and Bankruptcy Act, 1993 with regards to incompetency of the Officer. The matter is sub judice before the High Court.
Last year, the High Court directed to record the proceedings before the DRT Presiding Officer by the dedicated personnel provided by the Union Government.
It has also been directed by the High Court that the Presiding Officer should not insist on the deposits of costs imposed for the restoration of any applications since October 2022.
Further, the High Court directed the Union Government to provide facilities for hybrid hearings before the Tribunal.
The officer while challenging the directions of the High Court, moved the Supreme Court, wherein the officer alleged that it will have grave consequences impacting his performance of legal duties.
The bench headed by CJI verbally observed that it was important for the petitioner to be kind and sensitive towards the circumstances of the lawyers and not take up ‘cudgels’ against the bar association.
Accordingly, the court dismissed the plea.
The counsel, Gaurav Chopra, Sr. Advocate and Nikhil Sabharwal, Advocate, appeared for the petitioner.
The counsel, Satya Pal Jain, Addl. Solicitor General of India with Saigeeta Srivastava, Senior Panel Counsel appeared for the Union of India.
The counsel, Gaurav Goel, Addl. Standing Counsel with Arav Gupta, Advocate represented the respondents No.1.
The counsel, Tegjeet Singh, Advocate for respondents No.3 and 4 (iii) in CWP-513 of 2024 and for respondent No.4 and 5(i) to (iv) in CWP-1080 of 2024.