[dropcap]T[/dropcap]HE Supreme Court today directed the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to withdraw its non-disclosure policy and disclose its annual inspection report on banks or face contempt of court proceedings.
The decision comes in the wake of a batch of contempt petitions filed against the central bank for non-disclosure of vital information under the RTI Act. The petitioners had contended that the Supreme Court in 2015 had not only held that the RBI could not hide information that might embarrass banks but also that the information regarding defaulters could not be exempted from disclosure under the garb of confidence and trust between the RBI and defaulters.
The RBI is duty bound to reveal information related to wilful offenders. “We are giving them the last opportunity to withdraw the disclosure policy,” a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and M R Shah said in response to the contempt petitions.
In 2016, the RBI laid out a “disclosure policy’ that made certain information exempt from disclosure under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005 – mainly information on big loan defaulters. It justified this policy in the name of protecting the nation’s economic interest as well as its fiduciary relationship with banks.
The Supreme Court and the Central Information Commission had earlier held that the RBI could not refuse to put out inspection reports in the public domain under the RTI Act.