SC decision marks a watershed in the evolution of RTI - Moneylife

SC decision marks a watershed in the evolution of RTI - Moneylife


By any measure, this is a
landmark judgment of the Apex Court and now, it is for the government and
enlightened citizens to ‘use’ it in the right spirit, in public interest. The
Supreme Court’s observations like, “The facts reveal that as banks are trying
to cover up their underhand actions, they are even more liable to be subjected
to public scrutiny” should open the eyes of both government and the
institutions and by infusing transparency in transactions avoid similar
indictments in future. Our legal framework, which has British origin and has
not yet been ‘democratised’, insulates masters against action by servants and
institutions (both in private and public sector) from litigations by clientele
in several situations. Beyond citizen’s right to information, transparency
issues in the conduct of statutory bodies and government departments which
enjoy certain rights and privileges because of the nature of responsibilities
entrusted to them need to be addressed.
The temptation on the
part of government to bring in ‘ownership rights’ or on the part of regulators
and supervisors to take shelter under provisions of the statute book meant to
protect institutions and their clientele from embarrassment in exceptional
situations, in a routine manner, should be avoided.
The observations of the
Apex Court goes much beyond the issue of parting with information under RTI
Act. Without fighting this from a mere legal or prestige angle to protect the
image, by falling back on the secrecy clauses, RBI and other institutions need
to go by the spirit of the observations by the highest court.
A quick gesture could be
to initiate measures to make public, information the central bank is in
possession and considers useful for banks’ clientele in deciding their
relationship with individual banks. If legal provisions stand in the way, they
should be got amended, as ‘ease to do business’ include information about the
profile of the institution with which a customer deals.

G Warrier,


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