Madras High Court: A Division Bench of Amreshwar Pratap Sahi, CJ and Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy, J., to consider the issue with regard to the participation of advocates before Ombudsman under the Banking Ombudsman Scheme, 2006.
In the instant petition, the issue was regard to the permissibility of participation of advocates in proceedings before Ombudsman under the Banking Ombudsman Scheme 2006 promulgated by Reserve Bank of India.
Petitioner submitted that on the basis certain information received, there is no legal bar in the appearance of the advocates otherwise and secondly, the respondents are discriminating so far as the individual complainants are concerned about allowing Law Officers of the Bank to appear in such proceedings, whereas, at the same time, denying the individuals of the assistance of advocates.
Bench called upon the respondent’s counsel to come forward explaining the nature of functions of Ombudsman and the powers exercised by him in order to ascertain the following:
Whether the nature of the proceedings do require any such legal assistance and can be barred or not?
RBI annexed its 2006 Scheme, where Clause 7 entails the power and jurisdiction of the Ombudsman, Clause 10 prescribes the procedure for calling for information and Clause 11 or thereof indicates the exercise of jurisdiction by the Ombudsman to be not bound by any rules of evidence and allow him to follow such procedure as may be considered just and proper, where providing an opportunity to the complainant along with documentary evidence has been made permissible within a time frame.
Petitioner’s counsel contended that in the decision of Fidelity Finance Ltd. v. Banking Ombudsman, 2002 SCC OnLine Mad 864, it was held that the Ombudsman under the Scheme performs a quasi-judicial function and therefore, in view of the said pronouncement, it is evident that the Ombudsman proceeds like an adjudicatory forum and consequently, the legal assistance of an advocate should not be denied more so keeping in view the fact that law officers of the bank are allowed to attend such proceedings.
In view of the above background, Court stated that it required more clarification on the said aspect and respondents may file an appropriate response in order to explain the status, jurisdiction and the powers exercisable by the Ombudsman in order to further proceed in the matter.
Court has also asked both the parties to throw light on Clause 12(8) of the Scheme which provides that if any Award is rendered by Ombudsman it shall lapse and shall be of no use unless a letter of acceptance of full and final settlement of the claim is tendered by the complainant.
Matter to be listed on 03-12-2020.[M. Sivalingam v. State of Tamil Nadu, WP No. 3450 of 2014, decided on 12-10-2020]