The Central Information Commission has directed the Reserve Bank of India and the Prime Minister’s Office to disclose the list of wilful defaulters as well as a letter on bad loans written by the former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan to the Centre, PTI reported on Sunday.
Central Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said the PMO had refused to comply with its earlier order to disclose Rajan’s letter on “grounds which are not legal, which is unfortunate”. “If there is any objection based on an exception, the PMO should have pleaded such provision to justify their denial,” he wrote in his order to the government.
The development comes before a crucial meeting of the RBI board on November 19 amid speculation of a rift between the bank and government.
In a note to the Parliament Estimates Committee, Rajan had said the RBI had set up a fraud monitoring cell during his time as governor to coordinate the early reporting of fraud cases to investigative agencies. “I also sent a list of-high profile cases to the PMO urging that we coordinate action to bring at least one or two to book,” he had said in September.
Earlier this month, the CIC had issued a showcause notice to RBI Governor Urjit Patel for allegedly dishonouring a Supreme Court order regarding the disclosure of a wilful defaulters list.
The case pertains to a right to information application filed by activist Sandeep Singh, seeking information on wilful defaulters of bank loans of Rs 50 crore and more, which the Ministry of Labour and Employment refused to provide. He had then appealed to the CIC, which ruled in his favour. The Supreme Court later upheld the decision of Shailesh Gandhi, who was central information commissioner at the time, ordering the ministry to disclose the names.
Acharyulu said the PMO has a “moral, constitutional and political duty” to reveal to the country’s citizens who the defaulters are and what action has been taken against them. The RBI had said that several categories of information could not be disclosed due to a “disclosure policy”, with the bank calling the exceptional clauses under the Right To Information Act as “enabling provisions”, he alleged.
“It is against the RTI Act, the collection intention of Parliament, affront to democracy, reflecting disrespect to the Supreme Court’s directions in RBI vs Jayantilal N Mistry case,” he said. “The RBI has a strong legal team with experienced legal experts and meritorious graduates from National Law Schools, yet has audacity to openly defy the RTI Act, CIC directions and judgement of the Supreme Court.”
In spite of the top court’s order that Section 22 of the RTI Act will override the RBI Act and other legislation, the central bank again cited those acts while saying it would not disclose the information, Acharyulu said. “The RBI has totally ignored the provisions of the RTI Act,” he said.
Acharyulu also urged the Public Accounts Committee, Committee on Finance and the Committee on Estimates to intervene in the matter.