RBI cannot deny giving information under RTI Act by taking plea of fiduciary relationship with other banks

Supreme Court: In the present matter the question arose that whether Reserve Bank of India can deny giving information to the respondent under RTI Act, 2005 on the ground of economic interest, commercial confidence, and fiduciary relationship with other banks, the Division Bench of  M.Y. Eqbal and C. Nagappan,JJ., held that the RBI is duty bound to give information sought by the respondent and shall comply with the provisions of RTI Act, 2005 and that there is no fiduciary relationship of the RBI with other banks.

In the present case, the Court clubbed eleven petitions which were pending before different High Courts. The common fact in all the petitions was that the respondents sought information from the petitioner under the provisions of Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005 and the petitioner denied to give information to them by relying on provisions  under the Banking Regulation Act, 1949, Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934 etc. T.R.Andhyarujina on behalf of petitioner contended that petitioner is exempted to give information under Section 8(1) (a), (d),and (e) of the RTI Act, 2005, as disclosure of information would effect the public interest and economic interests of the country and that the RBI receives information from banks under its fiduciary capacity. RTI Act being general legislation cannot overrule the specific legislations related to confidentiality. On the contrary, Prashant Bhushan, on behalf of the respondent, contended that the right to information is a fundamental right enshrined in Article 19 of the Constitution. It was further contended that there is no fiduciary relationship of RBI with other banks. The Exceptions provided under Section 8(1) of RTI Act, 2005 can only be used in exceptional cases.

The Court while analyzing the relationship of RBI with other banks concluded that, RBI can not deny  giving information under the RTI Act, 2005 by taking the plea of its fiduciary relationship with other banks, because the reports of inspection, statements of the bank and information related to business obtained by the RBI from banks, does not come under information which is obtained on confidence or trust. RBI is the statutory body which is constituted to keep a check and regulate the activities of the banks.The Court further observed that inspection reports, documents etc. fall under the definition of ‘information’ as defined under Section 2(f) of the RTI Act, 2005. [Reserve Bank of India v. Jayantilal N. Mistry, 2015 SCC Online SC 1326, decided on 16-12-2015]

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