Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Supreme Court to hear out RBI objection to information under RTI

Economic Times: New Delhi: Tuesday, July 18, 2017.
The Reserve Bank of India on Monday told the Supreme Court that a host of laws mandate the banking regulator to maintain secrecy on borrowings and borrowers information that cannot be revealed to all and sundry under RTI, the 2005 transparency law.
This prompted the apex court to say it would examine all these aspects again. The order by a two-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India JS Khehar implies that RBI may not, for now, reveal details of borrowers and borrowings to the public under the Act, despite an earlier ruling binding it to do so.
The regulator wants the court to revisit the issue in a public interest litigation (PIL), in which the court has sought details of all non-performing assets (NPAs) in the public sector banking system.
RBI counsel Jaideep Gupta told the bench also comprising Justice DY Chandrachud that the regulator was bound to maintain secrecy on all such aspects. “There are a series of laws which say such information cannot be given,” he said.
The bench was dealing with a fresh PIL filed by NGO CPIL, drawing the court’s attention to some suspect advances made by housing corporation Hudco.
The court has earlier issued notices to the RBI in this case, asking it to submit details of all borrowers who owe the system Rs 500 crore and above. RBI had resisted making such information public and offered to submit details in sealed cover, after which the court asked RBI to file an affidavit A Supreme Court bench had, in December 2015, ruled that RBI was mandated to reveal details under RTI.
Justices MY Eqbal and C Nagappan had rejected the regulator’s plea then that the bank was obliged to keep such details secret on two counts  ensuring confidence in the bank-ing system and the fiduciary relationship it shared with banks.
The court had then ruled that RBI’s first commitment was to the public and national interest and it shared no relationship of trust with banks and was not obliged to withhold any information from the public.
Appearing for the NGO, activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan complained that though the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling had mandated the RBI to share such information, it was refusing citing the latest pending petition.
“Let the RBI file a response,” said Khehar, directing that the case be listed for final hearing after all sides had completed filing their legal submissions.
That leaves the Reserve Bank with no obligation to reveal any details to information seekers under RTI for now.