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economy | IST

“Anti-disclosure policy” — RBI and government reluctant to share information on wilful defaulters, says information commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu

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Acharyulu’s comments come two days after the CIC issued a show-cause notice to RBI governor Urjit Patel for “dishonouring” a Supreme Court judgment on disclosure of the wilful defaulters’ list. The CIC also asked the Prime Minister’s Office, the Finance Ministry and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to make public the letter of former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan on bad loans.

Information commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu criticised the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the government for not disclosing the list of wilful defaulters, saying that excuses put forth by the central bank were previously rejected by the Central Information Commission (CIC) and Supreme Court.
In response to a right to information (RTI) appeal, RBI raised several technical and legal objections to disclosing the list, Acharyulu told CNBC-TV18 in a wide-ranging interview, adding that the CIC found all excuses had already been raised before Supreme Court. They were all rejected by the CIC, according to Acharyulu.
"After that, the CIC had ordered in a dozen RTI second appeals to provide information which included wilful defaulters, defaulters and inspection report," he said.
Acharyulu’s comments come two days after the CIC issued a show-cause notice to RBI governor Urjit Patel for “dishonouring” a Supreme Court judgment on disclosure of the wilful defaulters’ list. The CIC also asked the Prime Minister’s Office, the Finance Ministry and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to make public the letter of former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan on bad loans.
On Raghuram Rajan’s list to the PMO, Acharyulu said at least the government should have stated what action has been taken. “The government could have at least said what is being investigated … who is being investigated. At a higher level also perhaps, there is an anti-disclosure policy.”
Under Indian law, wilful defaulters are classified as firms or individuals who own large businesses and deliberately avoid repayments.
Acharyulu said the Supreme Court specifically heard every point that was raised by the standing counsel of RBI and the court had rejected its argument.  If the Supreme Court rejected RBI’s writ appeals, it has to comply with the orders of CIC, he added.
The recent development shows that RBI was unwilling to disclose even the wilful defaulters' list, Acharyulu said.
Indian banks have been reeling under the weight of stressed assets, with a sharp increase in their bad loans provisions in recent years.