ILNS: The Supreme Court has put paid to the yearning of certain banks for opacity within the Reserve Bank of India and, in turn, about their own functioning.
The court has summarily dismissed all applications by the banks for the recall of a December 16, 2015 judgement of the court, in which the apex court had decided that the RBI has to act with transparency and not hide information that might embarrass the banks and that the RBI is duty bound to comply with the provisions of the Right to Information Act and disclose the information sought.
The Bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Vineet Saran dismissed the recall applications filed by prominent banks of the country, such as HDFC, Axis Bank and Yes Bank.
The Bench said, “The applicants cited judgments of this court in their support to distinguish a review from a recall. It was argued that a review petition would require consideration of the matter on merits, in case there is an error apparent on the face of record.
“Whereas, recall applications are entertained only in case the verdict is passed without jurisdiction or without an opportunity of hearing being given to the affected party. All the judgements that are cited on this point are cases, where petitions for recall were entertained, when a person directly affected by the judgement was not heard. In the instant case, the dispute relates to information to be provided by RBI under the Act.
“Though the information pertained to the banks, it was the decision of RBI, which was in challenge and decided by this Court. No effort was made by any of the applicants in the miscellaneous applications to get themselves impleaded, when the transferred cases were being heard by this Court.
“The applications styled as recall are essentially applications for review. The nomenclature given to an application is of absolutely no consequence – what is of importance is the substance of the application, the Bench added.
It was submitted by the Applicants that the order in the Reserve Bank of India vs Jayantilal N Mistry & Anr and the judgement in Girish Mittal vs Paravathi V Sundaram has compelled the RBI to disclose the exempted information pertaining to the Applicants, their employees and customers without following the procedure under the RTI Act. It was also submitted by the applicants that they were not given a chance to be heard and the Judgment in Jayantilal is against the principles of natural justice.
It is further submitted by the Applicant that disclosure of confidential and sensitive information relating to the Applicants by RBI would result in violation of Articles 14 and 19(1)(g) and the Right to Privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution of the Applicants, their shareholders, customers and employees.
The applicants also pleaded that Section 11 of the RTI Act provides discretion to a “public authority” for determining, if an information relating to a third party ought to be disclosed or not. But, the verdict in question takes away this statutorily provided discretion and the RBI, henceforth, while dealing with RTI applications seeking third party information, shall not exercise such discretion.
In 2015, Information sought by the respondent- Jayantilal in Transferred Case (Civil) No 91 of 2015 was not given by the Reserve Bank of India on the ground that such information is exempted from disclosure under Section 8 (1) (a), (d) and (e) of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
Writ Petitions filed in the High Courts were transferred on the request of RBI to this Court. By a verdict dated December 16, 2015 in Reserve Bank of India vs Jayantilal N Mistry, the apex court refused to accept the contention of RBI that the information sought by the Respondents could not be disclosed in view of its fiduciary relationship with the banks.
The Court also observed that RBI is not in any fiduciary relationship with the banks and that RBI has a statutory duty to uphold the interest of public at large, the depositors, the country’s economy and the banking sector.
This Court was of the opinion that RBI has to act with transparency and not hide information that might embarrass the banks and that it is duty bound to comply with the provisions of the Act and disclose the information sought.