Wednesday, December 24, 2014

RBI cell claims it is out of RTI purview

The Corporate Debt Restructuring (CDR) cell of the Reserve Bank of India has refused to answer queries under the Right to Information (RTI) on the grounds that it is not a public authority. RTI activist and former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, who sought information on the cell, has accused the body of acting like a khap panchayat, evading public scrutiny and acting like a law unto itself. 

"How can a body which uses public money to restructure private debt not fall under the purview of the RTI?" asks Gandhi. The CDR website shows that 505 cases of corporate debt restructuring have been approved till date, totaling around Rs 3.7 lakh crore. "If such a body is not held accountable, it will have serious implications on India's economy," said Gandhi. CDR members listed on its website include 21 public sector banks, 5 associated banks of the State Bank of India, 11 financial institutions and only 14 private sector banks. 

Gandhi's RTI query and first appeal were rejected by CDR. He has now filed a second appeal. 

The reply to his RTI query said, "CDR cell is neither established nor constituted by or under the constitution or any other law made either by parliament or by state legislature and it is also not made by notification issued or order made by the appropriate government (sic)," further stating that CDR was a 'self-empowered body.' 

However Gandhi, argues that, under section 2(h)(d) (i) of RTI, the words 'public authority' include any body or institution owned, controlled or substantially financed by the government, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate government. 

Gandhi argues in his appeals that the CDR cell is controlled by the government as five of seven members of its core group "are public servants and get their salaries from the government." He goes on to argue that "13 out of 19 employees (of the CDR) are also government servants who get their salaries from the government." 

"The core group members and other employees certainly would be representing the government. Any other assumption would be an unfair slur on their integrity. The core group members are there because of their positions as government servants and hence exercise control on behalf of the government. To claim that the appropriate government does not control the CDR cell would be to negate the truth," adds Gandhi. 

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