Supreme Court: The bench of AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari, JJ has held that the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) is competent to process the request of the secured creditor to take possession of the secured asset under Section 14 of the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002. The bench said,

“substitution of functionaries (CMM as CJM) qua the administrative and executive or so to say non­judicial functions  discharged by them in light of the provisions of Cr.P.C., would not be inconsistent with Section 14 of the 2002 Act; nay, it would be a permissible approach in the matter of interpretation thereof and would further the legislative intent having regard to the subject and object of the enactment. That would be a meaningful, purposive and contextual construction of Section 14 of the 2002 Act, to include CJM as being competent to assist the secured creditor to take possession of the secured asset.”

The Court further noticed that the expressions “CMM and CJM” are used interchangeably in Cr.P.C. and are considered as synonymous to each other. Section 14, even if read literally, in no manner denotes that allocation of jurisdictions and powers to CMM and CJM under the Code of Criminal Procedure are modified by the 2002 Act. Hence, Section 14 of the 2002 Act, stricto sensu, cannot be construed as being inconsistent with the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure or vice­versa in that regard. If so, the stipulation in Section 35 of the 2002 Act will have no impact on the expansive construction of Section 14 of the 2002 Act.

The bench, however, noted that Section 14 of the 2002 Act is not a provision dealing with the jurisdiction of the Court as such. It is a remedial measure available to the secured creditor, who intends to take assistance of the authorised officer for taking possession of the secured asset in furtherance of enforcement of security furnished by the borrower. The authorised officer essentially exercises administrative or executive functions, to provide assistance to the secured creditor in terms of State’s coercive power to effectuate the underlying legislative intent of speeding the recovery of the outstanding dues receivable by the secured creditor. At best, the exercise of power by the authorised officer may partake the colour of quasi­judicial function, which can be discharged even by the Executive Magistrate. The authorised officer is not expected to adjudicate the contentious issues raised by the concerned parties but only verify the compliances referred to in the first proviso of Section 14; and being satisfied in that behalf, proceed to pass an order to facilitate taking over possession of the secured assets.

The Court said that

“the provisions of the Section 14 of the 2002 Act are in no way inconsistent with the provisions of Code of Criminal Procedure, it must then follow that the provisions of the 2002 Act are in addition to, and not in derogation of the Code.”

[Authorised Officer, Indian Bank v. D. Visalakshi, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1242, decided on 23. 09.2019]

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