SC gives final warning to RBI on disclosure rules that deflect RTI queries

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SC gives final warning to RBI on disclosure rules that deflect RTI queries

'We could have taken a serious view of the continued violation but giving a final opportunity to the RBI to withdraw policy,' says the apex court

The Supreme Court has asked the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to disclose certain information regarding annual inspection reports of private banks and non-performing assets under Right to Information (RTI) Act by making changes in its 'disclosure policy'. The SC has given the RBI one "last opportunity" to withdraw rules blocking the disclosure of inspection reports of private banks and ordered it to divulge all information sought by petitioners. "We could have taken a serious view of the continued violation but giving a last opportunity to the RBI to withdraw (disclosure) policy," the SC said on Friday.

Rendering its judgement in the case, a bench head by Justice L Nageswara Rao also asked the central bank to review its policy to disclose information relating to banks under RTI, and said it was "duty bound under the law". However, the bench didn't go ahead with contempt proceedings against the RBI. The bench said it would have taken a serious view to the refusal of RBI to part with information under RTI. "Any further violation shall be viewed seriously," the bench said.

The SC's latest decision comes after its contempt notice to the RBI in January as it failed to disclose information related to the annual inspection report of banks under the RTI. While hearing the contempt petition filed by RTI activist SC Agrawal, the apex court said the RBI couldn't deny information under the transparency law unless the material was exempted from disclosure under the law. The Central Information Commission (CIC) had also issued a similar decision regarding the RBI withholding information related to banks. The RBI, in its defence, said the information related to banks couldn't be shared as it contained "fiduciary" information as defined under the transparency law.

This is the second time in April that the SC has hauled up the RBI. On April 2, the SC had declared the February 12 (2018) circular of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) unconstitutional, which was a big blow to the insolvency and bankruptcy law. The court said the RBI circular issued on February 12, 2018, was beyond the scope of its powers and therefore, would be declared to be of no effect. It also said all actions were taken under the circular, including actions by which the insolvency code had been triggered, must fall along with the circular. As per the circular, the banks would have to seek resolution under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) if a borrower failed to pay the due amount within a period of 180 days. The circular was applicable on loans of Rs 2,000 crore or more.

Edited by Manoj Sharma

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