Whether Dead Can be Sued or Not? Court Asks SBI

Any bank, especially the State Bank of India (SBI) being the leading bank of the country, is expected to take proactive steps to ascertain whether the people being sued by it are dead or alive, a Delhi court has said while rejecting a suit for recovery against a loan defaulter who has passed away.

District Judge Surinder S Rathi was hearing a suit filed by the SBI for the recovery of around Rs 13.51 lakh, along with interest, against defendant Siya Nand.

The court had earlier asked the bank to conduct an enquiry about the defendant, following which it came to light that Nand had expired two years prior to the filing of the suit.

It had then issued notices to the branch manager concerned for swearing a false affidavit and the general manager (law, recovery and litigation) to explain why the bank had decided to sue a dead man.

“In response thereof, the SBI has accepted its mistake and assured the court that they are taking appropriate action against the erring officials for non-compliance of an existing internal circular in this regard,” the court said in an order passed on November 2.

The court said there is nothing provided in the standard operating procedures (SOPs) being followed by the bank on how to ascertain whether a defendant, who is sought to be sued, is dead or alive.

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“A bank is not expected to sit and wait for information in this regard and if no information is received, proceed to sue a dead man. Any bank, especially the SBI being the leading bank in our country, is expected to take proactive steps to ascertain whether the people being sought to be sued by it are dead or alive,” the court said.

It, however, noted that the SBI had accepted the court’s suggestion that its litigation officer would access the database of the chief registrar of births and deaths.

Taking note of the unconditional apology tendered by the branch manager, the judge discharged the notice issued to him and said, “It is reiterated that the SBI is the leading nationalised bank in our country and shall lead the banking industry as the torchbearer of efficiency, professionalism, transparency and ethics.”

Rejecting the suit on the ground that a dead man cannot be sued under the laws of the country, the court said in the light of the SBI’s “course correction” so that such mistakes are not repeated, no extra cost is being imposed on the bank except forfeiture of the court fees already paid.

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