NEW DELHI: In an unprecedented order, the Central Information Commission (CIC) issued a show cause notice to RBI Governor Urijit Patel asking why maximum penalty under the RTI Act should not be slapped on him for withholding the list of big loan defaulters in spite of a three-year old Supreme Court order for its disclosure.
In its November 2 order, the CIC also asked the Prime Minister’s Office, the Finance Ministry and the RBI to make public former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan’s letter on bad loans.The CIC, which is the highest appellate authority in RTI matters, pinned the prima facie blame on the RBI Governor as it felt that the Central Information Commission could not have defied the Supreme Court’s orders issued in 2015 without the consent of the leadership of the bankers’ bank.Under the RTI Act, penalty is imposed by the CIC on the Central Public Information Officer, which is a personal liability on the officer. The maximum penalty under the Act is Rs 25,000.
“The Commission considers the Governor as deemed PIO responsible for non-disclosure and defiance of SC orders and CIC orders and directs him to show cause why maximum penalty should not be imposed on him for these reasons, before November 16,” Information Commissioner M Sridhar Acharyulu said.
The case pertains to RTI applicant Sandeep Singh, who had sought data on wilful defaulters of bank loans of Rs 50 crore and above from the Ministry of Labour and Employment, which was not provided to him.
In its last hearing on June 25, the CIC had issued notice to officers of Finance Ministry, RBI, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation to provide the information to Singh or give explanation if it cannot be done. On September 19, RBI’s Santosh Kumar Panigrahy wrote back citing various internal provisions, court orders and the RBI Act to deny the data.Rejecting Panigrahy’s argument, the CIC said: “His contention that unless the above referred enactments were repealed, RBI cannot disclose the details of defaulters is also absurd.”
Put out names of the biggest fish first
“The RBI shall disclose the bad debt details of defaulters worth more than Rs 1,000 crore at the beginning, of Rs 500 crore or less at a later stage within five days and collect such information from the banks in due course to update their voluntary disclosures from time to time as a practice under Section 4(1)(b) of RTI Act,” Sridhar Acharyulu said
Rs 25,000 Maximum penalty under RTI act
Under the RTI Act, penalty can be imposed by the CIC on the Central Public Information Officer, which is a personal liability on the officer. The maximum penalty under the Act is Rs 25,000