RBI Governor Gets Show Cause Notice from CIC for Not Disclosing Defaulters’ List
The Central Information Commission (CIC) has issued a show-cause notice to Dr Urjit Patel, governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for not honouring a judgement of the Supreme Court on disclosure of wilful defaulters’ list who had not paid loans of Rs50 crore and more. 
 
In the notice, central information commissioner Prof Sridhar Acharyulu had also asked the prime minister’s office (PMO), finance ministry and RBI to make public the letter sent by previous governor Raghuram Rajan on bad loans.
 
In the order, Prof Acharyulu stated, ""The Commission finds no merit in hiding the names of, details and action against willful defaulters of big bad loans worth hundreds of crores of rupees. The RBI shall disclose the bad debt details of defaulters worth more than Rs1,000 crore at the beginning, of Rs500 crore or less at later stage within five days and collect such information from the banks in due course to update their voluntary disclosures from time to time as a practice under Section 4(1)(b) of RTI Act."
 
Prof Acharyulu, irked over the denial of information on wilful defaulters who had unpaid loans of Rs50 crore and more, asked the RBI governor to explain why maximum penalty should not be imposed on him for ‘dishonouring’ a verdict from the apex court, which had upheld a decision taken by then Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, calling for disclosure of names of wilful defaulters. 
 
Prof Acharyulu also referred to a speech by Dr Patel at the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) where he had talked about CVC guidelines and how it were aimed to greater transparency. “The Commission feels that there is no match between what RBI governor and deputy governor say and their website regarding their RTI policy, and great secrecy of vigilance reports and inspection reports is being maintained with impunity in spite of the Supreme Court confirming the orders of the CIC in the Jayantilal case”, Prof Acharyulu had said. 
 
In normal circumstances, the public information officer (PIO) is held responsible for any lapses and penalised for not obeying orders passed by the CIC. However, in this case, Prof Acharyulu felt that punishing the CPIO of RBI will not serve any purpose as he may have followed instructions from the top authorities. 
 
Thus, he said, “The Commission considers the RBI governor as deemed PIO responsible for non-disclosure and defiance of Supreme Court and CIC orders and directs him to show cause before 16 November 2018 as to why maximum penalty should not be imposed on him for these reasons.” 
 
Earlier this year, the CIC had asked the finance ministry, the ministry of statistics & implementation and RBI to make public, the names of those bank loan defaulters whose unpaid loans amount to Rs50 crore and above.
 
This order is a sequel to the information sought by an RTI (Right to Information) applicant who was refused information by the central public information officer (CPIO) of the ministry of labour & employment. The RTI applicant had sought information on two issues. One was directly related to the labour & welfare ministry comprising information on employment guarantee schemes. The second related to the names of loan defaulters of Rs50 crore and above which the ministry has nothing to do with, but it was the duty of the CPIO to forward the RTI application to the relevant public authorities—in this case, the ministries of finance and of statistics and implementation and the RBI.
 
The CIC also pointed out that “Section 4(1) (c) of the RTI Act mandates to publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect the public; section (d) says provide reasons for its administrative or quasi-judicial decisions to affected persons. What is the policy of the finance ministry, the ministry for statistics and program implementation and the RBI in dealing with the wilful defaulters of Rs50 crore and above?’’
 
Earlier in February 2016, the Supreme Court directed RBI to furnish a list of the companies which are in default of loans in excess of Rs500 crore or whose loans have been restructured under corporate debts restructuring (CDR) scheme by banks and financial institutions. (Read: Supreme Court asks RBI to submit list of big defaulters)
 
Even in December 2015, the apex court, in a landmark judgement, has told the RBI that the banking regulator cannot withhold information citing 'fiduciary relations' under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Hearing a set of transferred cases, a Division Bench of Justice MY Eqbal and Justice C Nagappan said, "From the past we have also come across financial institutions which have tried to defraud the public. These acts are neither in the best interests of the Country nor in the interests of citizens. To our surprise, the RBI as a Watch Dog should have been more dedicated towards disclosing information to the general public under the Right to Information Act. We also understand that the RBI cannot be put in a fix, by making it accountable to every action taken by it. However, in the instant case the RBI is accountable and as such it has to provide information to the information seekers under Section 10(1) of the RTI Act."
 
In most of the transferred cases, Mr Gandhi, former CIC, while directing the RBI to provide information sought by applicants, had rejected the central bank's contention of 'fiduciary relation' for denying information. 
 
Here is the link to the RTI Judgement Series based on orders passed by Mr Gandhi as CIC.
 
You may also want to read…
 
 
 
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    P M Ravindran

    9 months ago

    The information commissioner has no right to presume influence on the PIO for denying info. He was duty bound to impose the mandated penalty and let the PIO, if aggrieved by that decision, to approach the courts. It is the most disgusting and frustrating thing about our justice delivery system that it fails the justice seeker at every step, making a mockery of rule of law. The courts are no less guilty of this crime.

    Moneylife Impact: NRIs Eligible To File RTI Shows Corrected Reply from Lok Sabha
    Non-resident Indians (NRIs) also have a right to seek information under the provision of Right to Information (RTI) Act, says a reply corrected by the Lok Sabha. Delhi-based RTI activist, commodore (Cmde) Lokesh Batra (retd) had received a reply that NRIs were not eligible to file an RTI application. Cmde Batra took up the issue with all authorities about ineligibility of NRIs to file RTI. 
     
    The rectified response to an unstarred question by Dr Jitendra Singh, minister of state in the prime minister's office (PMO), now states, "All citizens of India have the right to seek information under the provisions of RTI Act, 2005. Non-resident Indian citizens are eligible to file RTI applications."
     
    Cmde Batra says, "It is not every day the government accepts mistake of this kind leading to correction of response given by a minister of state that too under the PMO. I had shared the Moneylife story to all concerned at highest level to make necessary rectification." (Read: RTI Reveals Government Doesn’t Know Who Is an NRI)
     
    Varsha Sinha, director in the US-RTI division in the Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) told Cmde Batra that "The corrected reply to the Lok Sabha Question No.3535 has been uploaded on the official site of the Lok Sabha on 26 October 2018."
     
    Here is the rectified reply as provided by Ms Sinha...
     
     
    After the faulty reply from the minister in the Lok Sabha, Cmde Batra (retd) had filed an RTI application with the DoPT to get some clarity on the definition of an NRI. "As I understand it, NRIs are very much citizens of India, holding an Indian passport, but whose stay abroad exceeds 182 days in any financial year. Thus, NRIs also have the right to seek information under the provision of the RTI Act, 2005," he had said.
     
    In fact, the government, in its circular in 2013 had stated under 'Right of NRIs' that "…under the current provisions of the RTI Act, NRIs can file RTI applications seeking information either from a particular Mission or Post abroad or from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) itself. Accordingly, a fee of Rs10 per application, equivalent in local currency is accepted by Missions and Posts abroad." 
     
    Despite this, the minister made a statement, in August 2018, that NRIs cannot file an RTI application, although they have been given the facility in over 176 countries through missions and posts.
     
    With the rectification from the Lok Sabha, the route for NRIs to file RTI application for seeking information from Indian public authorities is now clear.
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    Assaults and Killings of RTI Users Continue; 17 Recorded So Far in 2018
    While the government is going ahead with amendments to the Right to Information (RTI) Act aimed at seriously and adversely affecting the power and dignity of information commissions, which will effectively kill the Act, no less serious is the government’s lack of will to prosecute alleged killers and assaulters on RTI users, thereby emboldening nefarious elements to threaten and kill whistleblowers. Nine murders and eight assaults on RTI activists have been reported so far from all over the country in 2018 alone!
     
    Satish Shetty was the first ever RTI activist to be killed in 2009.  The now tainted Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had carried out thorough investigations and had named 13 accused that include a well-known businessman close to senior political leaders. Ironically, the CBI now wants a closure of the case which is dragging on.
     
    While Sandeep, brother of the late Satish, continues to fight tirelessly, he rues that his brother’s life has gone in vain, fighting against corruption, as his murder investigation has turned into a bonanza for the corrupt. “When an agency like the CBI relentlessly lies in a court of law, it is very obvious that an invisible hand is forcing it to act in this manner.”
     
    On 7 September 2018, Kedar Singh Jindan, a Himachal Pradesh activist was ruthlessly killed.  As per the press release issued by the National Campaign for Peoples' Right to Information (NCPRI) (which has appealed to the chief minister of Himachal Pradesh for a thorough investigation),  he was first brutally assaulted and then crushed under an SUV in broad daylight near his house in Shillai, Sirmaur district. 
     
    “He had filed numerous applications under the RTI Act to expose fraud and irregularities in the identification of families living below the poverty line (BPL). He had presented these findings at a conference in Shimla on 29 June 2018. He had also put forth proof that he had obtained from six families relating to members of the panchayat that had used fake BPL certificates to secure government jobs. As per media reports, he had also registered a complaint with the Anti-Corruption Bureau. According to information available in the public domain, Jindan had previously been attacked multiple times and had sought police protection, which was denied.’’
     
    Last week, a citizens’ committee, which investigated into the Jindan murder matter, published a 13-page report which provided an insight into the brutality, modus operandi and motive of the murder. His family has appealed for a CBI inquiry.
     
    Should the issues raised and information sought by slain RTI activists get buried after they have passed away? No, says a central information commission (CIC) order. Once again, in June this year, the CIC issued an order that late activists’ appeals/complaints be pursued posthumously. The CIC order states: “Section 24 of the central information commission (management) Regulations, 2007, states that  the matter was discussed at the Commission’s meeting held on 13 September 2011 and Commission made the following declaration: 
     
    "The Commission, therefore resolves that if it receives a complaint regarding assault or murder of the information seeker, it will examine the pending RTI applications of the victim and order the concerned department(s) to publish the requested information suo motu on their website as per the provision of the law.
     
    "The matter was discussed in the Commission’s meeting held on 5 June 2018. The Commission has decided that in case of death of the appellant/complainant the case would be heard as usual as a second appeal/complaint and the decision would be put up on the website."
     
    Sadly, the order has remained on paper. The culprits are growing  more and more brazen in silencing whistleblowers of RTI, which reflects the failure of the public authorities and the CICs to ensure that the former adhere to the suo motu disclosures under Section 4 of the RTI Act.
     
    And therein lies the most serious complacency!
     
     
    Killings and Assaults on RTI activists in 2018
     
    (Source: Commonwealth Human Rights CHRI Initiative (CHRI)’s compilation of reports of attacks and killings of RTI activists, in the Hall of Shame map on the CHRI website here:  http://attacksonrtiusers.org/)
     
      
      
      
     
    (Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
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    COMMENTS

    Harish

    1 year ago

    Sad to learn about the travails of these brave people.

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