DRT has no power under any other law to restrain any person from travelling abroad: Bombay HC

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Restrain from travel abroad

Case Details: Anurag v. Bank of India - [2022] 139 taxmann.com 183 (Bombay)

Judiciary and Counsel Details

    • A.S. Chandurkar & Amit Borkar, JJ.
    • Akshay NaikD.V. ChauhanC.J. Dhruv, Advs. for the Petitioner.
    • A.T. PurohitD. Gupta, Advs. for the Respondent.

Facts of the Case

In the instant case, the petitioner filed writ petitions under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India challenging the order of the Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) which refused to grant permission to travel abroad for a limited time from 09.06.2022 to 17.06.2022 to attend the marriage of the petitioner’s sister-in-law.

The Petitioner was a personal guarantor of a private limited company (respondent No.2) engaged in electricity and power generation. To establish the Power Plant, a consortium of banks financed the project.

Proceedings under the Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code, 2016 were pending in relation to the respondent No.2 – Company before the NCLT and the Company was under liquidation order passed by the NCLT.

High Court Held

Original Application was filed before the Debt Recovery Tribunal, Nagpur, for recovery of amount against the Petitioner and other directors of respondent No.2 – Company. In the said Original Application, respondent No.1 – Bank sought interim relief restraining the Petitioner from travelling abroad and for impounding the passport of the Petitioner.

Accordingly, the DRT passed an order restraining the Petitioner from travelling abroad.

Question before the Court

The first important question that was raised before the Court was regarding the interpretation of Article 21 of the Constitution of India as to whether the expression “personal liberty” occurring in the said Article includes the right to travel abroad?

Second important question that arose was whether the refusal to grant permission to travel abroad results in the infringement of Article 21 of the Constitution of India?

The Bombay High Court held as under:

In the absence of a specific provision conferred on the Debt Recovery Tribunal by statute, the Debt Recovery Tribunal(DRT) has no power to restrain a citizen from travelling abroad, particularly when the right to foreign travel has been recognised as a facet of Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

The provisions under the Recovery of Debts Due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1993, as they stand, do not even impliedly confer such powers on the Debt Recovery Tribunal to restrain a person from travelling abroad. In the result, order of DRT restraining the writ petitioner (who is guarantor of a company indebted to bank and against who recovery proceedings are pending in DRT)from travelling abroad is quashed and set aside and writ petitioner allowed to travel abroad subject to furnishing undertaking to the Court.

(a) Article 21 of the Constitution of India provides that “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”.

(b) The expression “personal liberty” includes a right of a citizen to travel abroad and return to the home country without any impediment, direct or indirect. The expression “personal liberty” has not been used in the restricted sense of freedom from arrest and detention but has been used in a much wider sense. It is well settled that the word “law” in this Article means the law enacted by a competent Legislature.

(c) As the right to travel is a part of the personal liberty of a person, he cannot be deprived of his right except according to the procedure established by law.

(d) In the absence of a specific provision conferred on the Debt Recovery Tribunal by statute, the Debt Recovery Tribunal has no power to restrain a citizen from travelling abroad, particularly when the right to foreign travel has been recognised as a facet of Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

(e) The provisions under the Recovery of Debts Due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1993, as they stand, do not even impliedly confer such powers on the Debt Recovery Tribunal to restrain a person from travelling abroad.

(f) In the result, order of DRT restraining the writ petitioner(who is guarantor of a company indebted to bank and against who recovery proceedings are pending in DRT)from travelling abroad is quashed and set aside and writ petitioner allowed to travel abroad subject to furnishing undertaking to the Court in Para No. 25 of the Order.

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