Monday, March 27, 2017

Central bank fends off note recall query

Calcutta Telegraph‎‎: New Delhi: Monday, March 27, 2017.
The Reserve Bank of India has refused to answer the Right to Information Act query why resident Indians weren't allowed to deposit their old currency notes till the promised date of March 31 this year.
According to the Reserve Bank, the subject of the query does not come under the definition of "information" as provided in the transparency law.
In his November 8 speech announcing the demonetisation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said people could deposit their old 500 and 1,000-rupee notes in their bank accounts till March 31.
Later, it was decided that the window would be kept open till March 31 only for non-resident Indians, who are a major support base for the ruling BJP.
In its response to the RTI query, the Reserve Bank refused to share the file notings on that decision, saying it would go against the economic interests of the State.
The Supreme Court too is hearing the matter of the deadline for the deposition of old currency notes. Attorney-general Mukul Rohatgi is believed to have told the court that the law would prevail over the Prime Minister's words.
The RTI applicant had sought the reasons, as "recorded" in the Reserve Bank's files, behind the decision not to allow resident Indians to convert their old currency till March 31.
Suman Ray, the central public information officer, said in his response that the applicant was seeking reasons or justification, which is not defined as "information" in Section 2(f) of the RTI Act.
A Supreme Court judgment had said that if opinion or advice was available in a public authority's records, it would come under the definition of "information" under the RTI Act.
Former information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said that Section 8(2) of the RTI Act allows the disclosure even of exempted information if it is in the larger public interest.
According to the RTI Act, "information" is "any material in any form" held by or under the control of a public authority.
This covers "any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, emails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force".
But the Reserve Bank has stonewalled almost every RTI query relating to demonetisation, citing one reason or the other.
It has refused to reveal whether the views of finance minister Arun Jaitley or the chief economic adviser had been taken before the demonetisation was announced.