Supreme Court gives RBI ‘last chance’ to alter disclosure policy

HYDERABAD, TELANGANA, 14/12/2016: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) logo in Hyderabad. 
Photo: K.V.S. Giri

HYDERABAD, TELANGANA, 14/12/2016: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) logo in Hyderabad. Photo: K.V.S. Giri

The Supreme Court on Friday gave the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) “a last opportunity” to withdraw a November 2016 Disclosure Policy to the extent to which it stonewalls revelation of every other kind of information under the Right to Information Act, including the list of wilful defaulters and annual inspection reports.

A Bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and M.R. Shah found the policy of the central bank to be directly contrary to the court’s judgment of December 2015 that the Reserve Bank could not withhold information sought under the RTI Act.

The Bench was hearing contempt petitions filed against the RBI for not complying with the 2015 judgment.

“We give them a last opportunity to withdraw the disclosure policy insofar as it contains exemptions which are contrary to the directions issued by this court,” Justice Rao said, giving an ultimatum in the 12-page verdict.


The 2015 judgment had rejected the RBI’s argument that it could refuse information sought under the RTI on the grounds of economic interest, commercial confidence, fiduciary relationship or public interest.

‘No fiduciary ties’

The court had observed that there was “no fiduciary relationship between the RBI and the financial institutions”.

The court, in 2015, reminded the RBI that it had the statutory duty to uphold the interests of the public at large, the depositors, the economy and the banking sector.

“This court was also of the opinion that the RBI should act with transparency and not hide information that might embarrass the individual banks,” Justice Rao wrote.

“The RBI is duty-bound to comply with the provisions of the RTI Act and disclose the information... the submission made on behalf of the RBI that the disclosure would hurt the economic interests of the country was found to be totally misconceived,” Justice Rao wrote.

The court however said some matters of national economic interest like disclosure of information about currency or exchange rates, interest rates, taxes, the regulation or supervision of banking, insurance and other financial institutions, proposals for expenditure or borrowing and foreign investments could harm the national economy, particularly, if released prematurely.

“However, lower-level economic and financial information like contracts and departmental budgets should not be withheld under this exemption,” Justice Rao wrote, referring to the 2015 verdict of the apex court.

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Printable version | Aug 7, 2022 7:28:58 pm |