Report Backs RTI Exemption for India’s National Banks

16 May 2014

The “fragile” condition of India’s public sector banks requires urgent action, according to a new report, including an exemption from the right to information act.

The 90-page report by a high-level committee includes numerous recommendations, such as lowering of the government’s holding in the several dozen banks to below 50 percent.

The banks face a number of external constraints that need to be removed “so that these banks are not disadvantaged in relation to private sector banks, which are uninhibited by them,” according to the committee constituted by the Reserve Bank of India, India’s central bank.

One of the constraints cited is the RTI law.

The burden of the RTI requests doesn’t seem high, according to Venkatesh Nayak, Programme Coordinator of the Access to Information Programme at the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative

“The available data indicates that, on an average, the maximum number of RTI applications per branch received by a PSU Bank during this period  is an ‘astronomically high’ 2.25 applications for Allahabad Bank followed by the Bank of Baroda at an average of 2 RTI applications per branch,” he wrote, also pointing to high rejection rates.

Nayak also reported resistance by the banks to disclosing their levels of non-performing loans. H

“So these Banks are not willing to reveal to citizens who deposit their hard earned money with them as to who has defaulted on loans,” he said, adding, “Yet the Committee goes ahead and reports that the RTI Act is a constraint on the governance of PSU Banks.”

Nayak also wrote:                                                 

“What we as citizens need to debate and oppose is this trend of blaming everything bad on the RTI Act. No Bank secrets have been disclosed under the RTI Act till date. This shows the strength of the legitimate exemptions under the RTI Act which the Committee fails to recognise. We as civil society actors must challenge the Banks to show how RTI has adversely affected their performance in objective terms. Until then such criticism of the RTI Act must be treated as merely a case of overflowing of the bile due to an unhealthy lifestyle. We could however wish them- Munnabhai style: “Get well soon”.


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