The Bombay High Court on Monday questioned the shutdown of Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) following a fire in the said building premises over a month ago and expressed surprise at this development. Is the Finance Ministry sleeping, asked Justice Abhay Oka.

The division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice AA Sayyed was hearing a petition filed by the Debt Recovery Tribunal Bar Association seeking allotment of some space for the tribunal in Mumbai.

A fire broke out in the DRT building at Ballard Estate in south Mumbai on June 2, ever since then the tribunal has been non-functional.

When the matter came up, Justice Oka questioned the Union of India as to why no alternative place has been identified until now even though it has been a month since the fire broke out.

“The government should be doing this on their own instead of us deciding and passing orders. In the financial capital of the country the Debt Recovery Tribunal is not functioning, is the finance ministry sleeping?”

Former Advocate General of Maharashtra Shrihari Aney appeared on behalf of the DRT Bar Association. He spoke to Livelaw:

Q: Sir, did Justice Oka say “Is the Finance Minister sleeping?”

Aney: No, he said the ministry.

Q: Has the Union been able to come up with an alternative option yet?

Aney: No, we had suggested that space can be allotted where the present Securities Appellate Tribunal sits and apparently, they have enough space to accommodate the DRT as well as the DRAT (Debt Recovery Appellate Tribunal) and its only a question of agreeing to terms and we are anxious because the government can take any amount of time in concluding matters when it comes to settling terms.

Senior counsel Shyam Mehta appeared on behalf of the Finance Ministry and said the Ministry is considering the MTNL building in Colaba. Mehta then sought a week’s time to file a reply, but Justice Oka refused.