RBI cell claims it is out of RTI purview

Written By Unknown on Kamis, 25 Desember 2014 | 22.23

MUMBAI: 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.

When contacted by TOI, RBI did not comment on the matter.

In a reply to Gandhi's first appeal, CDR said, "..the core committee members or the employees do not determine the character or nature of the control excercised by the appropriate government. The control of the government in the management or the functioning of the body is more relevant than the number of public servants working in the CDR cell." The reply further stated that the bank officers were considered "public servants" only for limited purpose.

In his second appeal, Gandhi quotes an RBI circular which shows that the initial finances for the CDR were provided by IDBI (a public sector bank) and over 75% of subsequent finance was from public sector banks and institutions. Gandhi argues that the CDR is both controlled and substantially financed by the government.

"It is also noteworthy that it does not appear to have any legal structure and despite being created by an RBI circular, claims a virtual presence not accountable to anyone. If such an argument is accepted, all government organizations could create such virtual cells and deny information and accountability," says Gandhi's appeal.

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