We are therefore of the opinion that the GRC satisfies the tests prescribed to qualify as a Tribunal.
(MM) Once the GRC is held to be a Tribunal within the meaning of Section 30 of the Advocates Act, the advocates would have a right to practice before it and axiomatically the borrower before such GRC will have a right to engage and avail the services of an advocate.
(NN) A Division Bench of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana in Paramjit Kumar Saroya Vs. Union of India MNU/PH/0765/2014, in the context of the provision in the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 debarring representation through an advocate before the Tribunals constituted under the said Act, held that after the coming in to force ofSection 30 of the Advocates Act, there cannot be an absolute bar to the assistance by legal practitioner to before a Tribunal.
(OO) A Full Bench of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana in Smt. Jaswant Kaur Vs. The State of Haryana AIR 1977 P&H 221 held Section 20A of the Haryana Ceiling of Land Holdings Act, 1972 prohibiting advocates from appearing before the authorities constituted under the said Act to be bad in the light of Section 30 of the Advocates Act, without of course noticing Section 30 of the Act to be not in force.
(PP) In Lingappa Pochanna Appelwar Vs. State of Maharashtra (1985) 1 SCC 479 the challenge to the vires of Section 9A of the Maharashtra Restoration of Lands to Schedule Tribes Act, 1974 prohibiting advocates from appearing in proceedings under the Act on the ground of restricting the right to practice the provision was negatived only on the ground of Section 30 of the Advocates Act having not been brought into force and though it was observed such a right is no doubt conferred thereby.It thus follows that the restriction placed by the GRC of the appellant banks to appearance on behalf of borrowers of advocates before it, not by any law but otherwise, cannot be sustained and has to be held to be bad.
We are also of the view that the entire opposition of the GRC of the appellant banks to appearance of is based on an illogical presumption of the same delaying the proceedings before it. We do not find any basis for such apprehension. There is no basis for the Bank / FIs to form an opinion that while the defaulting borrower and / or his representatives would not delay the proceedings, an advocate appearing for them would. Moreover the members of GRC can always control and guide the proceedings before it and as per the exigencies limit the time of hearing.
We therefore conclude that the GRC of the appellant banks erred in denying representation through the advocates to the respondent. We further hold that the borrowers or the Banks/FIs who are proposed to be classified/ declared as wilful defaulters and are given an opportunity of hearing before the GRC are entitled to be represented therein through advocates. We however hasten to clarify that the GRC would be fully empowered to control including as to the duration and guide the hearing and if finds dilatory and vexatious tactics being adopted, to take suitable consequential actions.
Delhi High Court
Punjab National Bank & Ors vs Kingfisher Airlines Limited & Ors on 17 December, 2015
Author: Rajiv Sahai Endlaw