Dismisses case seeking refund of Rs. 4.25 lakh from Canara Bank

Purchasers of immovable properties in auctions conducted by nationalised banks cannot file writ petitions seeking refund of their money, on account of certain encumbrances in the properties, as such transactions are purely commercial in nature, the Madras High Court Bench here has held.

Justice K. Chandru passed the ruling while dismissing a writ petition filed by an individual seeking a direction to the Chief Manager of Canara Bank, Melur Branch, Tuticorin, to refund Rs. 4.25 lakh with interest from November 8, 2011, as the property he purchased could not be registered in his name.

According to the petitioner, E. Muthuraj of Tuticorin, he purchased 10.107 cents of land at Sankaraperi village through an auction conducted by the bank. He paid the entire sale consideration to the bank and also obtained a sale certificate issued in his favour.

Subsequently, when he attempted to register the property in his name, the Sub-Registrar concerned informed the writ petitioner that the property actually belonged to the government and no sale deed could be registered with respect to it in favour of a third party.

An application made by him under the Right to Information Act, 2005, to the District Registrar Office revealed that the land was part of Boodhan Movement, initiated by Acharya Vinoba Bhave in 1950s for the benefit of landless poor, and it stood in the name of the State government’s Boodhan Board.

However, in a counter affidavit filed by the bank through its counsel C. Jawahar Ravindran, it was stated that the property was taken charge of under the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest (SARFAESI) Act from one of its loan defaulters.

When the property documents were submitted as security by the borrower, the bank’s panel of legal experts had opined that the mortgagor had a valid title over it. Stating that the bank was unaware of the encumbrance, it rejected any kind of liability to repay the amount to the auction purchaser.

Further, the bank relied upon Rule 15 (3) of the Tamil Nadu Boodhan Yagna Rules, 1959, which permits mortgaging of property belonging to Boodhan Board. It also pointed out that the sale certificate issued in favour of the purchaser was exempted from being registered under the Registration Act.

After recording the contentions put forth by the petitioner as well as the bank, Mr. Justice Chandru recalled that in a judgement passed on September 12, a Division Bench of the High Court had held that it was the purchasers who must be diligent enough in enquiring about the encumbrances before purchasing properties through bank auctions.

Pointing out that statutory rules provide for sale of a property only after 30 days of a public notice issued by banks, the Division Bench said that the time was intended to serve two purposes:

One for the bank’s loan defaulter to gather resources and repay the money if possible and another for all intending purchasers to make sufficient enquiries as a person of normal diligence and ordinary prudence would do while buying an immovable property.