The Centre has refused to give the details of former bureaucrat Shaktikanta Das’ appointment as the governor of the Reserve Bank of India, claiming that records related to deliberations by ministers are exempted from the Right to Information Act. A correspondent for the PTI news agency had filed a request with the Department of Financial Services.
Das, a former economic affairs secretary, was appointed to the central bank after the premature resignation of Urjit Patel in December 2018. Patel’s resignation was linked by many commentators with the growing rift between the RBI and Narendra Modi’s government. Das, unlike his predecessors, is not an economist, and has been supportive of some of the Modi government’s controversial policies, such as demonetisation.
The RTI request filed by the PTI correspondent sought details of the process followed by the government, including a copy of vacancy advertisements for the post, names of applicants and shortlisted candidates. The query also sought the composition of the search committee set up to shortlist candidates and a copy of the minutes of meetings held for the appointment.
The Department of Financial Services said the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet selects the central bank governor on the basis of a recommendation by the Financial Sector Regulatory Appointments Search Committee. The department then forwarded the query to the Cabinet Secretariat.
The Cabinet Secretariat denied the information citing Section 8(1)(i) of the RTI Act because of the exemptions for “file notings/documents/records” of the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet.
The Section 8(1)(i) of the Right to Information Act, 2005, exempts such records from being revealed, but allows for the disclosure of the reasons and the basis of decisions once the Council of Ministers has made them and the matter is complete:
Section 8(1)(i) of the RTI Act:
[Exemption from disclosure of information for] Cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers:
Provided that the decisions of Council of Ministers, the reasons thereof, and the material on the basis of which the decisions were taken shall be made public after the decision has been taken, and the matter is complete, or over,
Provided further that those matters which come under the exemptions specified in this section [Section 8] shall not be disclosed.