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The Supreme Court today issued notice in contempt petitions filed against the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for alleged violation of a judgment passed by the Court in 2015.
The Bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and MR Shah issued notice to the RBI, and sought a reply from the banking regulator within four weeks.
Over three years ago, the Supreme Court in Reserve Bank of India v. Jayantilal N Mistry, had directed the disclosure of information sought for under the Right to Information Act (RTI Act) relating to individual banks regulated and supervised by the RBI.
Then, in 2016, the RBI issued a Disclosure Policy, as per which its Public Information Officers (PIOs) were directed not to disclose information, even the kind of information directed to be disclosed by the Court in 2015.
The Policy states:
“A list of such information which cannot be disclosed either wholly or partially is furnished below. While compiling the list, it has been the Bank’s endeavour to attain the objectives of the RTI Act, without jeopardizing the financial stability and economic interests of the State. It may also be noted that the list is only indicative and not exhaustive and is subject to review/revision. Each application received under the RTI Act would be examined in the light of the provisions of the Act and any decision with respect to non-disclosure by the Bank will be supported by the relevant exemption provisions thereunder.”
The contempt petition states that the Supreme Court in Jayantilal Mistry had dismissed the RBI’s claims that such disclosure of information would be against the economic interests of the country. It was noted in that judgment:
“This attitude of the RBI will only attract more suspicion and disbelief in them. RBI as a regulatory authority should work to make the Banks accountable to their actions.”
The petition further states that the information titles which are in contempt belong to the Department of Banking Regulation, Department of Banking Supervision, Department of Cooperative Banking Regulation/Department of Cooperative Banking Supervision and Consumer Education and Protection Department.
“RBI in its “Disclosure policy” has exempted the same information as was directed by this Hon’ble Court to be disclosed in Transfer Case (Civil) No. 95 of 2015. Disclosure Policy’s point 2(v) exempts the “DEPARTMENT OF BANKING REGULATION” from disclosing:
“Information relating to specific supervisory issues emanating from Inspection or Scrutiny reports received from other supervisory departments. Information shared with other regulators in India.”
on the grounds of Section 8(1) (a) & (e) of the RTI Act, 2005.”
Further, it is claimed that the Policy in question is also in violation of the provisions of the RTI Act, as it instructs the RBI’s PIOs not to furnish the information.
“…this policy has been framed by the RBI headquarter which is like an instruction to its PIOs not to furnish virtually all kinds of information. Under the RTI Act, 2005, it is the PIOs who have been cast with the statutory duty to comply with the provisions of the RTI Act (as interpreted by the Courts) and it is the PIOs who face penalty for non-compliance. The policy issued by the RBI headquarter/Respondent herein to the PIOs is not only in violation of this Hon’ble Court’s judgment, but it is also in violation of the provisions of the RTI Act…”
Therefore, it was prayed that contempt proceedings be initiated against the RBI for willfully and deliberately disobeying the directions of the Court in Jayantilal Mistry.
Advocates Prashant Bhushan and Pranav Sachdeva appeared for the petitioners. The matter is likely to be listed in March.
Read the petition: