January 16, 2017
Reserve Bank of India Petitioner(s).
Jayantilal N. Mistry Respondent(s).
Civil Petition No.707 of 2002
Supreme Court of IndiaI. Key Note of the Case: Whether the Reserve Bank of India has rightly refused to disclose information on the ground of its fiduciary relationship with bank. II. Facts of the Case: The respondent sought some information from CPIO of RBI under the Act of 2005; which was denied by the CPIO on the ground that the information sought may harm the interest of the bank & banking system. The Central Information Commission (CIC) impugned the order and directed RBI to provide information to the respondent. The primary question therefore, is whether the RBI has rightly refused to disclose information on the ground of its fiduciary relationship with bank. Whether all the information sought for under the Right to Information Act, 2005 can be denied by the Reserve Bank of India and other Banks to the public at large on the ground of economic interest, commercial, confidence, fiduciary relationship with other bank on the one hand and the public interest on the other, up to what extent the information can be provided under the 2005 Act. It has been contended by The Reserve Bank of India that it carries out inspections of banks and financial institutions on regular basis and the inspection reports prepared by it contain a wide range of information that is collected in a fiduciary capacity. III. Court’s observation and judgment: In the instant case, the RBI does not place itself in a fiduciary relationship with the financial institutions because, the reports of the inspections, statements of the banks, information related to the business obtained by the RBI are not under the pretext of confidence or trust. In this case neither the RBI nor the banks act in the interest of each other. By attaching an additional “fiduciary” label to the statutory duty, the regulatory authorities have intentionally or unintentionally created an in terrorem effect. RBI being the central bank is one of the instrumentalities available to the public which as a regulator can inspect such institutions and initiate remedial measure where necessary. It is important that the general public, particularly, the share holders and the depositors of such institutions are kept aware of RBI’s appraisal of the functioning of such institutions and taken into confidence about the remedial actions imitated in specific cases. This will serve the public interest. The RBI would therefore be well advised to be proactive in disclosing information to the public in general and the information seekers under the RTI Act, in particular. The provisions of Section 10(1) of the RTI Act can therefore be judiciously used when necessary to adhere to this objective.