Vol. XLIII No. 19 May 12, 2019

BEFI Welcomes SC Order on RBI Disclosure Policy

THE Bank Employees Federation of India has welcomed the Supreme Court’s order on April 26 directing the Reserve Bank to stop blocking disclosure of documents such as the list of loan defaulters and annual inspection reports of banks under the Right to Information Act.

The apex court asked the RBI to amend ‘Disclosure Policy’ in line with its earlier ruling on December 16, 2015. The order is part of relentless attempts to extract information in the backdrop of mounting corporate bad debts in banks with the RBI and the government resisting such attempts. Gross non-performing assets of banks have mounted to Rs 11.2 lakh crore in Financial Year 2018.

In a press statement on May 2, Bank Employees Federation of India (BEFI) general secretary Debasish Basu Chaudhury said they had been “incessantly demanding the government and the RBI to publish the list of bank loan defaulters, at the least, the corporate defaulters above Rs 5 crores and take stringent criminal action against them in order to recover the money from them in public interest.”

Bank employees and officers, under the banner of United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU), are carrying out movement against sharp increase of bad debts, particularly during the tenure of present government at the centre. A number of strikes were observed by UFBU highlighting the issue of bad debts which had been eating the huge operating profits of the public sector banks.

Abetted by the Government of India, all financial institutions including RBI itself have been denying information related to serious irregularities, malpractices and action taken against the perpetrators by the regulatory authorities, especially the private banks and cooperative banks under the pretext of economic interest, commercial confidence, fiduciary relationship or public interest. The attitude encouraged naked plunder of public money and the institution of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) 2016 was created to formalise the pillage.

The apex court judgement reflects the cry of the Left and democratic movement and also of the bank employees/officers in particular while reminding the RBI, created by a statute of parliament, of its statutory duty to uphold the interests of the public at large, the depositors, the country’s economy and the banking sector. It stated that by attaching ‘fiduciary label’ to its statutory duty, the RBI, intentionally or unintentionally created an in terrorem effect. The fact reveals that some banks, mostly in the private sector and cooperative sector, are trying to cover up their underhand actions. The RBI, in association with them, has been trying to hide the acts from public scrutiny. The RBI should act with transparency and not hide information.

The apex court, quite significantly, referred to a judgment by a seven-member bench of the court, and stated, “…if secrecy were to be observed in the functioning of the government and the processes of the government were to be hidden from public scrutiny, it would tend to promote or encourage oppression, corruption, misuse and abuse of authority, for it would all be shrouded in the veil of secrecy without any public accountability.”

The severe indictment by the Supreme Court reaffirms the uncompromising struggles of BEFI and UFBU, ably supported by the Left movement of the country, against the neoliberal policy regime of the government that acts as an instrument to further the loot and plunder of the oligarchies at the expense of the working people. The landmark judgement will strengthen the struggle to reverse the policies in favour of the people.