The Supreme Court on Friday gave the RBI "one last opportunity" to disclose annual inspection reports of banks as it just stopped short of issuing a contempt notice against RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das, and ordered the Reserve Bank of India to disclose the wilful defaulters' list under the Right To Information Act.
The top court also ordered the central bank to withdraw its non-disclosure policy, which the court concluded is in violation of the apex court's judgment in 2015.
Taking a serious view of the continued defiance the court came down heavily asking the RBI to make full disclosure of its annual inspection reports on the financial health of banks including position of NPAs and also withdraw its disclosure norms as it came in the way of making public informations on the state of banks under the RTI.
A bench of Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice M. R. Shah said: "Any further violation will be viewed seriously."
The RBI, as per 2015 judgment, was supposed to disclose the annual audit report of the banks, status of NPAs and action taken there on.
The top court by its 2015 order had asked the RBI to share information on the annual audit of the banks including on NPAs under the Right to Information Act.
However, this was stalled after RBI introduced disclosure norms that blocked the disclosure of information on the financial health of the banks under the RTI. An RTI activist Subhash Chander Agrawal had moved the top court seeking contempt action against RBI Governor for not complying with its 2015 judgment.
Girish Mittal and Agrawal had moved the top court for contempt action against the RBI not complying with the court's direction to disclose information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The petitioners had claimed that RBI and its former Governor Urjit Patel had "willfully and deliberately" disobeyed the top court's judgement asking the central bank to disclose information under the RTI Act.
The two petitioners sought initiation of contempt of court action against former Governor for not disclosing information as directed by the top court.
One of the contempt petition filed by Girish Mittal said that RBI refused to provide information sought about the inspection reports of some banks.
In December 2015, the petitioner under the RTI Act had sought certain information which included copies of inspection reports of ICICI Bank, Axis Bank, HDFC Bank and State Bank of India from April 2011 till December 2015.
The petitioner had also sought copies of case files with file notings on various irregularities detected by RBI in case of Sahara Group of companies and erstwhile Bank of Rajasthan by these entities themselves and their known/unknown promoters.
However, RBI denied the information in January 2016 that such information is exempted under Section 8(1)(e) of the RTI Act and Section 45NB of the Reserve Bank of India Act.
The petitioners contended that top court in 2016 while directing disclosure of a very similar type of information sought under the RTI Act had observed RBI is clearly not in any fiduciary relationship with any bank.
The petitioners has argued that the responses of RBI are in complete violation of the top court judgment by which it was held that RBI ought to act with transparency and not hide information that might embarrass individual banks and it is duty bound to comply with the provisions of the RTI Act and disclose the information sought.