The Supreme Court on Thursday adjourned until November 18 its hearing in the case on a loan relief scheme for borrowers to help them tide over the coronavirus pandemic. The top court agreed to defer the hearing after the centre informed the court that Solicitor General was presenting arguments in the Central Vista case before another bench of the Supreme Court. The top court asked the lawyers of all parties to prepare a short note and submit to court before the next hearing.
The top court is hearing a batch of petitions regarding charging of interest on interest – or compound interest – by banks on EMIs delayed by borrowers for the March-August 31 period under a scheme approved by the RBI that would provide relief to millions of people.
The main petitioner, Gajendra Sharma thanked the court, government and Solicitor General for giving relief to small borrowers and holding their hands.
The RBI has instructed banks and other financial institutions to credit the difference in compound interest and simple interest on repayments of eligible loans up to Rs 2 crore due between March and August by November 5.
The loan relief is for personal, housing, education, auto and consumer durables loans, loans to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME), besides loans to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) and credit card dues, subject to applicable conditions.
The lenders will credit the amount irrespective of whether the borrower fully or partially opted for the relief. They will have to claim the reimbursement by December 15.
The government has decided to bear the cost of the scheme, estimated at Rs 6,500 crore.
The amount – the difference between compound interest and simple interest for the six-month period – paid by lenders on eligible loans will be reimbursed by the government at a later date.
The top court had earlier directed the government to give the loan relief to eligible borrowers “as soon as possible”, saying that any delay in its implementation was not in the interest of the common man. Nudging the government to provide loan relief at the earliest, the court had said, “The Common Man’s Diwali is now in government’s hands’ and asked the government to come out with modalities on the issue.
The government was forced to rethink its loan relief scheme after the RBI allowed borrowers to postpone loan instalments due between March and August, but also permitted banks to charge interest on such delays. That meant the borrower would be able to pay later, but at additional cost.
Initially, the RBI on March 27 had issued the circular which allowed lending institutions to grant a moratorium on payment of instalments of term loans due between March 1, 2020, and May 31,2020, on account of the pandemic. Later, the period of the moratorium was extended till August 31 this year.