CIC says disclose inspection reports of apex cooperative banks as well
Moneylife Digital Team 16 November 2011

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
 

Comments
MUNDLE UMESH
10 years ago
VERY GOOD DECISION TAKEN INTO THE PUBLIC INTREST.
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