Pradeep Pattanayak

Starting from advocates to the general public present at the Bargarh court were taken aback to see two minors deposing before the court for a loan their late father had taken. 

Their father Bidhubhusan Puta, a resident of the Tusura area in the Bolangir district, served as an IIC in a police station in Subarnapur. He died of a heart attack in 2020. A year later, his wife Sasmita lost her life to COVID-19, leaving their two minor children-aged seven and 11 years old - orphaned. 

After the death of their mother, they have been staying with their maternal grandfather Sarathi Dhurua at Kenadhipa in Sambalpur. Some months ago, Sarathi received a notice from the State Bank of India’s Bargarh branch. Only then, he came to know that his son-in-law had taken a loan of Rs 7 lakh from the bank. Of the loan amount, Bidhubhusan had repaid Rs 2 lakh. The notice was for the unpaid amount of around Rs 4.99 lakh. 

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Acting on the bank’s appeal, the court served notices to Bidhubhusan’s two minor children in January. Honouring the court’s order, Sarathi along with his two minor grandchildren went to the court, covering a distance of around 100 kilometres. 

Sarathi said the court had taken photographs of his grandchildren and asked them not to come to the court anymore. However, he is still in the dark about the status of the loan. 

He said the incident of his two minor grandchildren being summoned to the court has been brought to the notice of the President of India and the National Human Rights Commission. 

Such an incident has triggered many questions: Is it justified to summon two minors to court? Should they repay their dead father’s loan? Should their 72-year-old grandfather bear the loan burden? 

“The bank officers are saying they would strike off my late son’s loan if I give Rs 2 lakh. I am under tremendous pressure thinking whether I will repay the loan or educate the children. At the court, photographs of my grandchildren were taken and they were told not to visit court even if they are served court notices,” said Sarathi. 

When asked, a former bank official Damodar Nanda said, “Neither the minor children nor their grandfather can be asked to repay the father’s outstanding loan. I think the bank officers may not be aware of the situation. If they know, they can waive the outstanding loan amount which is below Rs 5 lakh.”

No reactions from the concerned bank officials were received.

(By Dharmadutta Padhi)