The Central Information Commission (CIC) has stayed the order of the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) First Appellate Authority (FAA) directing the disclosure of information on Saraswat Co-operative Bank Limited's non-performing assets (NPAs) and top defaulters. CIC Suresh Chandra issued the order in response to Saraswat Bank's appeal of the RBI directive.
The RBI's FAA issued the directive to the bank in response to an RTI application filed by former Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, who requested information on Saraswat Co-operative Bank Ltd for the previous three years.
The application requested copies of the RBI's audit and inspection reports, warnings or advisories issued to the bank, fines or penalties imposed on the bank, the grade assigned to the bank, its total non-performing assets, the report on the quality of borrowers, and a list of its top five defaulters with amounts owed.
The information sought was ordered to be released by the First Appellate Authority. Saraswat Co-operative Bank Limited, on the other hand, preferred an appeal before the Second Appellate Authority, citing confidentiality. They stated,
"Irreparable damage and enormous loss will be caused to the Appellant if the information, which is confidential in nature is disclosed."
The CIC then ordered, based on the facts and circumstances of the case,
The appellant has requested an interim order preventing the CPIO/FAA from disclosing the information requested in the RTI application. According to the prayer, the second appeal is granted, and due to the urgency, the operation of the FAA's order dated 15.2.2021, as mentioned in paragraph 1 above, is stayed until further orders.
In July, 2021 , the CIC issued a similar stay order in an appeal filed by South Indian Bank, arguing that releasing the information would cause "irreparable loss/injury to the Appellant and render their pending appeal infructuous."
The State Bank of India, Punjab National Bank, Union Bank of India, HDFC Bank, and ICIC Bank have filed a petition with the Supreme Court challenging the Reserve Bank of India's RTI notices to disclose information about defaulters and inspection reports under Section 11(1) of the Right to Information Act. The Supreme Court denied an interim stay of the RTI notices and issued a notice on the petition.
The RBI issued the notices in response to a 2015 Supreme Court decision in the case of Reserve Bank of India v Jayantilal N. Mistry, which held that the RBI was required by the RTI Act to disclose defaulters' lists, inspection reports, annual statements, and other bank-related documents.In April, a bench comprised of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Vineet Saran denied bank requests to recall the Jayantilal Mistry decision.
"There is no provision in the Supreme Court Rules for filing any application for recall of this Court's judgement," the bench noted.
Title: Saraswati Coop Bank Ltd. V. CPIO: Reserve Bank Of India