The Supreme Court on Friday granted the last opportunity to the Reserve Bank of India to comply with its order to disclose inspection reports of banks under the Right to Information Act (RTI).
A division bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and Justice MR Shah warned the central bank that any further violation of the apex court's 2015 verdict would result in serious contempt of court proceedings against it.
Taking a serious view of the RBI's failure to disclose the information, the court said that the central bank is duty bound to comply with the directive unless exempted.
The court also asked the RBI to withdraw its non-disclosure policy, saying it violated the apex court's judgment.
In its December 16, 2015 verdict in RBI vs Jayantilal N Mistry and others case, the Supreme Court had held that the central bank is bound to disclose information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
Petitioners Girish Mittal and Subhash Chandra Agrawal had alleged that the RBI and its former governor Urjit Patel had "willfully and deliberately" disobeyed the apex court's order.
They had sought initiation of contempt of court action against the former Governor for non-disclosure of information.
Mittal had said that the RBI refused to provide inspection reports of ICICI Bank, Axis Bank, HDFC Bank and the State Bank of India from April 2011 till December 2015.
The petitioner had also asked for copies of file notings on "various irregularities" detected by the RBI in case of Sahara Group of companies and erstwhile Bank of Rajasthan and their known/unknown promoters.
However, the central bank denied the information in January 2016, saying that these pieces of information were exempted under Section 8(1)(e) of the RTI Act and Section 45NB of the Reserve Bank of India Act, according to petitioners.
Mittal and Agrawal had contended that the apex court in 2016 while directing disclosure of a very similar type of information sought under the RTI Act observed that the RBI is clearly not in any fiduciary relationship with any bank.
In the contempt pleas, the petitioners had stated that the responses of the central bank were in complete violation of the apex court judgment by which it was held that the RBI ought to act with transparency and not hide information that might embarrass individual banks.
The RBI was duty bound to comply with the provisions of the RTI Act and disclose the information sought, they had said, citing the court verdict.
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