Disclose info sought under RTI: SC to RBI

The Supreme Court on Friday directed the RBI to disclose information on loan defaulters, banks inspection reports and other details under the RTI Act. It also ordered the banking regulator to withdraw its policy on non-disclosure of information.

A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and M R Shah gave one last opportunity to the RBI to comply with its December 16, 2015 judgement, saying it was “duty-bound” to make disclosure of information under the RTI Act, including inspection reports of the banks, barring those that could have a bearing on security of the state.

“Though we could have taken a serious view of the respondents continuing to violate the directions issued by this court, we give them a last opportunity to withdraw the disclosure policy insofar as it contains exemptions which are contrary to the directions issued by this court,” Justice Rao said, pronouncing its judgement on a batch of contempt petitions filed by activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal and others.

“Further violations of its orders would be viewed seriously,” the bench said, rejecting the RBI’s plea that the previous judgement required reconsideration.

The court had in 2015 said RBI has a statutory duty to uphold the interests of the public, depositors, country’s economy and the banking sector. It said the RBI should act with transparency and not hide information that might embarrass the individual banks.

“There is no fiduciary relationship between the RBI and the other banks. This court stressed the importance of the RTI Act, and held that it is in the interest of the general public that the information sought for has to be furnished,” the bench said.

After the 2015 judgement, the RBI had brought out a disclosure policy on December 30, 2016 policy virtually barring furnishing of any information under the RTI Act. As the court reserved its judgement on April 2, 2019.It was pointed out that another policy was uploaded on RBI’s website on April 12, 2019, replacing the 2016 policy, directing various departments not to disclose information.

Agrawal sought contempt actions against then RBI chairman Urjit Patel for denial of information “on the ground of economic interest, commercial confidence, fiduciary relationship or public interest”. The RBI claimed the information was exempted under Section 8(1)(e) of the RTI Act and Section 45NB of the Reserve Bank of India Act.

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