The Central Information Commission issued a showcause notice to Reserve Bank of India Governor Urjit Patel for allegedly dishonouring a Supreme Court order on the disclosure of wilful defaulters, 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 Right to Information Act applicant Sandeep Singh who asked for data on wilful defaulters of bank loans of Rs 50 crore and more, which the Ministry of Labour and Employment refused to give him. The Supreme Court had then upheld a decision by then Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi to disclose the names.
The commission said that on September 20, Patel spoke at the Central Vigilance Commission, and had said that the CVC’s guidelines on vigilance were aimed at achieving greater transparency, promoting a culture of honesty and probity in public life and improving the 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.”
“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,” Acharyulu added. 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 at the beginning, of Rs 500 crore or less at a 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 the RTI Act,” he said.