Couple finally vacates house auctioned for loan recovery

A long sad tale ends: Preetha and Shaji vacate their house
Preetha had waged a long battle to save her house from lenders and the people who had bought it from the lenders.

Kochi: Preetha Shaji and husband M V Shaji, who were facing the threat of eviction over a bank loan collateral case, finally moved out of their house at Manathupadam in Pathadippalam after a long struggle.

The house was sealed by the Thrikkakkara North village officer. Preetha had to vacate her house based on a directive of the Kerala High Court. However, a people's organisation that has taken up the cause of ensuring justice for Preetha said that it would continue the stir in front of the house.

The High Court directive was based on a petition moved by M N Ratheesh of Alangad who had pointed out that the court order to provide police protection to enforce a warrant issued by Debt Recovery Tribunal in the case was not implemented. Ratheesh had won the bid when the house was put up for auction.

Preetha had waged a long battle to save her house from lenders and the people who had bought it from the lenders. She and husband Shaji had lost their house to a bank loan taken for Sajan, a relative, 24 years ago.

Shaji was the driver of Sajan's bus and was coerced to mortgage his house for his employer to avail a loan of Rs 2 lakh from Lord Krishna Bank.

Sajan never repaid the loan and the bank sent a default notice to Shaji in 1997. So Shaji sold 4 cents of his property and repaid Rs 1 lakh.

During this time, Lord Krishna Bank was taken over by Centurion Bank and Centurion Bank by HDFC Bank, which moved the debt recovery tribunal.

In 2014, the tribunal ordered e-auction of Shaji's house and 18.5 cents of land. The bank had claimed that the dues had mounted to a whopping Rs 2.38 crore. Preetha and Shaji said that they were never informed about the auction.

The land was auctioned for a mere Rs 37.8 lakh while the market price was at least Rs 1.75 crore and the buyer tried to evict the family.

Resisting the attempt, Preetha even prepared a symbolic pyre in front of her house. Political parties and local people supported the family. She also launched a hunger strike.

The local MLA V K Ebrahim Kunju raised the matter in the Assembly and the district collector intervened. However, the stakes were heavily mounted against the family and they had no option but to finally vacate their house.

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