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Now CIC cracks whip on RBI, Patel gets notice for failing to disclose wilful defaulters list

PW Bureau

The CIC has directed the RBI to disclose the bad debt details of defaulters worth more than Rs 1,000 crore at the beginning and of Rs 500 crore or less at a later stage within five days

New Delhi: RBI Governor Urjit Patel has got a show-cause notice from Central Information Commission (CIC) for “dishonouring” a Supreme Court judgment on disclosure of the wilful defaulters’ list.

The CIC has also asked the Prime Minister’s Office, the Finance Ministry and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to make public the letter of former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan on bad loans.

Trouble mounts for RBI Governor

At a time when Patel is in the midst of a mounting power struggle with the government, the CIC has also started to crack its whip on the RBI. The Commission has asked Patel to explain why a maximum penalty should not be imposed on him for “dishonouring” the court verdict, which had upheld a decision taken by then information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, calling for disclosure of names of wilful defaulters. The list includes names of defaulters who have taken bank loans of Rs 500 million and above.

On September 20, Patel, while speaking at the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), had said that the guidelines on vigilance, issued by the CVC, 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. Quoting that statement, Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said, “The commission feels that there is no match between what RBI governor and deputy governor say and their website regarding their RTI policy, and a 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.”

Acharyulu also said that punishing the CPIO for his defiance would not serve any purpose because he was taking orders from his bosses.

CIC pokes holes into RBI’s defence

Rejecting the arguments made by the RBI’s legal wing, represented by Santosh Kumar Panigrahy, Acharyulu said that RBI’s contention that section 22 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act will override the laws quoted by the CIC is baseless and hence, the RBI cannot be discharged from the obligations of disclosure. The CIC added, “His (Panigrahy) contention that unless the above referred enactments are repealed, the RBI cannot disclose the details of defaulters is also absurd.”

He said that another contention of Panigrahy that the pendency of a PIL before the Supreme Court on the issue would prevent him from disclosure also stands on a shaky ground as he did not present any interim order passed by the Supreme Court preventing the disclosure of names of wilful defaulters or against the proceedings before the CIC.

Acharyulu finally said, “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.”