8,167 wilful defaulters owe banks Rs 76,685 cr, says Arun Jaitley


New Delhi: There are 8,167 wilful defaulters who owe banks an amount of Rs 76,685 crore and 1,724 FIRs have already been filed in 2015-16, government said on Tuesday.

The details were provided by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in Rajya Sabha during Question Hour, where he also said that a Joint Committee of Parliament is presently looking into a Bill relating to debt recovery which aims at empowering banks to take more effective steps in dealing with default situations.

Congress leader Anand Sharma raised the matter relating to many positions in the Debt Recovery Tribunals being vacant.

Jaitley said Sharma was “perfectly right that the Debt Recovery Tribunals have to be made more effective.”

He said in the Debt Recovery Bill that the Committee was examining, the government has proposed increasing the number of these tribunals. He also said that several notifications regarding filling up of vacant positions are in the pipeline.

Congress member Digvijay Singh expressed concern over the poor conviction rate in such matters which, as per the details provided by the Finance Minister, was just 1.14 per cent during 2015-16.

To this, Jaitley said the convictions depended on the kind of evidence that investigation agencies are able to produce.

He said that ‘wilful defaults’ pertained to those cases where someone who has the capacity to pay and does not do so, or where money has been siphoned for a purpose which is not originally intended for.

The Minister said many defaults that banks have been seen pertain to sectors like steel, infrastructure and power and government has worked in the last one and a half years to address problems of these sectors.

He said several other measures have been taken to help banks in such situations and added that the insolvency law has also been recently passed.

Earlier, All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) had threatened to make public the names of top 7,000 wilful corporate loan defaulters who have defrauded around Rs 70,000 crore.

The union also demanded filing criminal cases against these defaulters.

AIBEA General Secretary C H Venkatachalam also said around 10 lakh employees and officials would go on a one-day strike, called by nine unions on July 29 to oppose what he calls the “anti-people banking reforms being pushed by the government.”

“Wilful defaulters have taken loans for some purpose but have diverted and misused the money. There are around 7,000 big companies who are wilful defaulters and they owe Rs 70,000 crore to the system. We will reveal their names in a few days,” Venkatachalam said.

He accused the government of going soft on these big defaulters saying, “we believe the government is soft on wilful defaulters. We want to know why no criminal action is taken against them, but only civil suits are being filed against them?”

He called upon the government to declare wilful defaults as criminal offence and take criminal action and recover the money by confiscating their properties.

“Because the money belongs to the public and not the government or the banks,” he said.

Venkatachalam also called for setting up fast-track debt recovery tribunals to resolve the big loan defaults so that the money is recovered fast.

“Restructuring a default loan instead of categorising it as a bad loan is a fraud and cheating the public,” he added.

Opposing the entry of private players into banking system, he said encouraging such entities to open banks is a dangerous conspiracy to weaken public sector banks.