If there are certain irregularities in the working and functioning of such banks and institutions, the citizens certainly have a right to know about the same, Mr Gandhi said in his landmark judgement
In an unprecedented order, the Central Information Commissioner (CIC) Shailesh Gandhi has ruled that disclosure of inspection reports of apex co-operative banks of various states and Mumbai District Co-operative Bank must be shared with the public in a proactive manner. This kind of disclosure would certainly serve public interest, as mandated under Section 8(2) of the RTI Act, the CIC said.
Ruling out the public information officer's (PIO) contention that disclosing the inspection reports would prejudicially affect the economic interests of the Indian nation, the CIC said, "It is pertinent to mention that significant amounts of public funds are kept with institutions including co-operative banks which are regulated by the apex co-operative banks. Therefore, it is only logical that the public has a right to know about the functioning and working of such entities including any lapses in regulatory compliances."
"Merely because disclosure of such information may harm the economic interest of the state, this cannot be a reason for denial of information under the RTI Act. If there are certain irregularities in the working and functioning of such banks and institutions, the citizens certainly have a right to know about the same. The best check on arbitrariness, mistakes and corruption is transparency, which allows thousands of citizens to act as monitors of public interest. There must be transparency as regards such organisations so that citizens can make an informed choice about them," Mr Gandhi said in an order issued on 14 November 2011.
Mumbai-based Kishanlal Mittal has filed an application under the RTI Act asking for copies of inspection reports of apex cooperative banks of various states and Mumbai District Cooperative Bank from 2005. Mr Mittal also asked the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) to provide copies of all correspondences it had with Maharashtra state govt, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and any other agency of state or union government regarding Maharashtra State Cooperative bank from January 2010 onwards. He also sought confirmed and or draft minutes of meetings held by governing board and directors of NABARD from April 2007.
The PIO of NABARD, in his reply said that information about inspection reports and its directors' meeting sought by Mr Mittal, are exempted under Sec8(1)(a) of the RTI Act 2005. Unsatisfied with this answer, Mr Mittal then approached the first appellate authority, which did not pass any order within the stipulated time. Mr Mittal then filed second appeal with the CIC.
In its order the CIC said, “The Appellant (Mr Mittal) has sought copies of inspection reports of apex co-operative banks of various states/Mumbai District Co-operative Bank from 2005 till date. At the outset, this Bench is unable to agree with the PIO that disclosing the said inspection report(s) would prejudicially affect the economic interests of the Indian Nation. Moreover, even if the information sought was exempt under Section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act, this Bench is of the considered view that disclosure of inspection reports of apex co-operative banks of various states/Mumbai District Co-operative Bank must be shared with the public in a proactive manner. This kind of disclosure would certainly serve public interest, as mandated under Section 8(2) of the RTI Act."
Section 8 (2) of the RTI Act states, “Notwithstanding anything in the Official Secrets Act, 1923 nor any of the exemptions permissible in accordance with sub-section (1), a public authority may allow access to information, if public interests in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interests”.
The fundamental rights of citizens, enshrined in the Constitution of India cannot be curbed on a mere apprehension of a public authority. The Supreme Court of India has recognized that the Right to Information is part of the fundamental right of citizens under Article 19 of the Constitution of the India. Any constraint on the fundamental rights of citizens has to be done with great care even by Parliament. "The exemptions under Section 8 and 9 of the RTI Act are the constraints put by Parliament and adjudicating bodies have to carefully consider whether the exemptions apply before denying any information under the RTI framework," Mr Gandhi remarked in his landmark judgement.
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Inspection reports of co-operative banks should be made public by RBI, rules CIC
While the RBI had objected to making the information public saying it is held by it in fiduciary capacity and disclosing it would adversely affect economic interest of the state, information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said that such exemption does not stand when there is larger public interest in the disclosure
New Delhi: The Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to make public the names and other details of top 100 industrialists of the country who have defaulted on loans from public sector banks, reports PTI.
The commission also directed the central bank to post on its web site complete information on all such industrialists as part of suo-motu disclosure mandated under section four of the RTI Act before 31st December and asked it to update it every year.
The RBI had objected to making this information public saying it is held by it in fiduciary capacity and disclosing it would adversely affect economic interest of the state.
Information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi agreed that information is fiduciary in nature but said that such exemption does not stand when there is larger public interest in the disclosure.
“There can be no doubt that the information on defaulters received from banks are held by the Reserve Bank in a fiduciary capacity and are confidential in nature,” an RBI official had said while deciding RTI application of PP Kapoor of Panipat, Haryana.
Mr Kapoor had sought to know from the RBI the details of default in loans taken from public sector banks by various industrialists besides list of defaulters, top 100 defaulters, name of the businessman, address, firm name, principal amount, interest amount, date of default and date of availing loan.
During the hearing, Mr Gandhi asked the RBI if the information about loan defaulters is held by it as part of statutory requirements. The public information officer admitted that the banks were providing the information in fulfilment of statutory requirements.
Mr Gandhi in his detailed order said, “In fact, information about industrialists who are loan defaulters of the country may put pressure on such persons to pay their dues. This would have the impact of alerting citizens about those who are defaulting in payments and could also have some impact in shaming them.”
He said there is no doubt that details of top industrialists who have defaulted in repayment of loans must be brought to the citizens’ knowledge and there is certainly a larger public interest that would be served on disclosure of the same, hence clause of fiduciary information does not stand.
“This (disclosure) could lead to safeguarding the economic and moral interests of the nation. The commission is convinced that the benefits accruing to the economic and moral fibre of the country far outweigh any damage to the fiduciary relationship of bankers and their customers if the details of the top defaulters are disclosed,” he said.
He said the commission is aware that information on defaulters is being shared by RBI with an organisation called CIBIL adding that “it is difficult to understand the reluctance to share this information with citizens using RTI”.
The commission also rejected the contention that disclosure would adversely affect economic interest of the state saying “if it means that such borrowers would not bank with public sector banks for fear of exposure, it would in fact be in the economic interest of the nation.
“It is also unlikely that the economic well being of the nation could get affected adversely by disclosing the names and details of defaulters. The Indian economy is dependent on far stronger footings,” he said.
The online term life insurance market is heating up with more players entering the fray. The premium is now similar to personal accident cover offered by non-life insurance companies. Is it sustainable? Are the products priced too aggressively?
Many insurers like LIC, HDFC Life, Bharti AXA Life, Tata AIG life are set to come out with term plans which may be pure online or combined with offline mode of distribution.
Term life insurance used to be almost three times expensive than personal accident cover offered by non-life insurers. Not anymore. It is now at par and if the trend of race to the bottom continues, term life premium can be unsustainable. While personal accident covers disability as well as death, the trigger has to be accidental which needs a lot more documentation like police first information report (FIR), post-mortem report and so on. Term life without a rider will cover death which may or may not be due to accident. The current online term premium rates are a good deal for customers, but the competition is just getting started.
Some of the current online term plans may re-price the products with 10% to15% lower premium for a specific target segment based on lifestyle. Increasingly insurance companies are offering discounted premiums for non-smokers, female policyholders and now will start looking at detailed lifestyle like occupations to arrive at a reduced premium. There may be a proportionate increase in sum assured for existing customers to ensure they get benefit of the re-pricing initiative.
According to Deepak Yohannan, “There are sceptics who scoff at this claiming it to be un-sustainable—that only time can tell. At least it has forced the large players to sit up and play the game with the new rules being set by others. Complete disruptiveness at it best and I think the life insurance industry will see a lot more and it will not all be restricted to pricing.”
A new product ICICI Pru Life iCare tries to address the major hiccup with the online term insurance buying process. The medical tests which online term insurance products require for all (or higher age groups) has been done away with this innovative product. There were issues like premium hike after medical tests which used to catch customers by surprise. This one-of-a-kind product will have no medical tests and no surprises of premium hike. This is online term plan in complete sense.
Recent entrants DLF Pramerica U-Protect and Edelweiss Tokio Life Protection have premiums which are the lowest in offline term plan space. Their premium is Rs5,956 and Rs5,984 respectively for Rs50 lakh sum assured for a 27 year old non-smoker male based in Mumbai for policy term of 25 years. Both the products are offline as of now.