The Central Information Commission has issued a showcause notice to Reserve Bank of India Governor Urjit Patel for allegedly dishonouring a Supreme Court order regarding the disclosure of a wilful defaulters list, PTI reported on Sunday. The commission asked Patel why the maximum penalty should not be imposed on him for withholding the list despite a three-year-old court order.
The move comes amid an ongoing row between the top bank and the central government. The commission also asked the Prime Minister’s Office, Finance Ministry and the RBI to make public former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan’s letter on bad loans.
The case pertains to a Right to Information Act application filed by activist Sandeep Singh, who had sought data on wilful defaulters of bank loans of Rs 50 crore and more, which the Ministry of Labour and Employment refused to provide it. He then appealed to the Central Information Commission, which ruled in his favour. The Supreme Court later upheld a decision by then Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi order to the ministry to disclose the names.
In its notice to Patel, the commission noted that he had spoken at the Central Vigilance Commission on September 20 and said the CVC’s guidelines on vigilance were aimed at achieving greater transparency, promoting a culture of honesty and probity in public life, and improving overall vigilance administration in the organisations within its purview.
“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,” PTI quoted Central Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu as saying.
“The commission considers the governor as the deemed PIO [public information officer] responsible for non-disclosure and defiance of Supreme Court orders and CIC orders and directs him to show cause why a maximum penalty should not be imposed on him for these reasons, before November 16.”
Acharyulu added: “The commission finds no merit in hiding the names of, details and action against wilful defaulters of big bad loans worth hundreds of crores of rupees.” He said the bank will first have to disclose the names of defaulters of over Rs 1,000 crore, and of Rs 500 crore or less “at a later stage” within five days. The RBI will also need to collect information from banks to update their voluntary disclosures under the RTI Act.
“The RBI shall disclose the bad debt details of defaulters worth more than Rs 1,000 crore and then of Rs 500 crore or less 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 the RTI Act,” he said.
Acharyulu said the CIC had received another Right To Information petition seeking the disclosure of names of those who defaulted on loans above Rs 50 crore, ANI reported. “A similar RTI was filed earlier in which the previous information commissioner had given an order that names of defaulters can be disclosed along with action taken,” he said.
Acharyulu added that the RBI was duty-bound to implement the Supreme Court orders mandating the disclosure of banks’ inspection reports.