“Last Chance”: Top Court Orders RBI To Disclose Bank Inspection Reports

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    The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Reserve Bank of India to disclose information about its annual inspection report of banks and the list of wilful defaulters under the Right to Information Act (RTI). The bench was hearing a contempt petition filed by RTI activists Subhash Chandra Agrawal and Girish Mittal against the RBI. Ordering the central bank to disclose the information unless exempted under law, the bench did not go ahead with contempt proceedings against the RBI. The Supreme Court had in January this year issued a contempt notice to the RBI for not disclosing the annual inspection report of banks under RTI.

    The petitioners had claimed that the RBI under its former Governor Urjit Patel had “wilfully and deliberately” disobeyed the top court’s judgement asking the central bank to disclose information under the RTI Act.

    A bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao directed the federal bank to review its policy to disclose information relating to banks under RTI, saying “it is duty bound under the law”.

    It also warned the RBI to rethink its stand on disclosures under the RTI Act. The Supreme Court also said the Reserve Bank of India’s non-disclosure policy was violation of its judgment in 2015.

    In December 2015, the petitioner under the RTI Act had sought certain information which included copies of inspection reports of ICICI Bank, Axis Bank, HDFC Bank and State Bank of India from April 2011 till date. However, the central bank denied the information in January 2016 stating that such information is exempted under the RTI Act and the Reserve Bank of India Act.

    The top court then held that the RBI cannot deny information to an information seeker under the transparency law unless the material is exempted from disclosure under the law. The RBI defended its position by stating that it cannot disclose information as the annual inspection report of the bank contained “fiduciary” information. 

    In its order on Friday, the top court gave a final chance to the central bank to reconsider its stand on disclosure of annual inspection reports of banks and other details sought by activists. “Any further violation shall be viewed seriously,” the Supreme Court said on the matter.

    (With agency inputs)

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