The Bombay High Court refused to stop publication of photographs of a defaulter firm in newspapers, saying that it was in larger public interest.
The division bench of Justices V M Kanade and M S Sonak refused to grant relief to the firm D J Exim and its directors. State Bank of India, on October 10, had issued the firm a letter warning that if it did not repay loan amount, photographs of the directors would be published in national newspapers.
The company moved the High Court against this saying no rule permits banks to publish photos. "They cannot embarrass the defaulters like this. According to the rule only name and address can be published," the firm's lawyers argued.
However SBI counsel Aspi Chinoy pointed out that the company had defaulted on repayment of Rs 53 crore (Rs 530 million).
"This is not disputed. They are admitted defaulters. We are only stating this fact to the public," he argued, and said the bank "does not resort to such stringent measures" in each and every case.
Accepting this argument, High Court observed that publishing of photographs serves the purpose of creating awareness and cautioning prospective clients. "In our view, there would be no impediment to publication of photos of the defaulters. There is no legal bar which expressly prohibits the bank from publishing photos.
"However, the decision to resort to such measures should be taken by a very senior level official not below the rank of General Manager of the bank. In this case, due process was followed and the decision cannot be faulted," the court said.
It, however, said that SBI's earlier undertaking that it would not publish the photos pending hearing of the petition would remain in effect for three more weeks, to enable the petitioner company to appeal in the apex court.