Public sector banks should disclose details of cases pertaining to persons and establishments whose bad debts of over Rs 100 crore have been written off, the Delhi High Court has held.
This disclosure involves an element of public interest and tax payers have a right to know the manner in which state-run banks sanctioned them, Justice Rajiv Shakdher said.
Prima facie, in my view, this information may have to be disclosed, he said.
The court's order came on a plea filed by the State Bank of India (SBI) against a January 20 order of the Central Information Commission (CIC) asking the bank to supply to RTI applicant Raju Vazhakkala information regarding total Non- Performing Assets (NPAs) written off between 2004 and 2013.
The bank contended that it has a fiduciary relationship with the accountholders and the information should be exempted from disclosure under Section 8(1)(e) of the RTI Act.
It also submitted that Section 44 of the SBI Act 1955 also prohibits disclosure of customer's information to any third party.
The judge brushed aside the SBI's contention and observed that the reason I have come to this prima facie conclusion is this: the petitioner (SBI) is undoubtedly a nationalised bank, which on its own is showing written off as NPAs, its loan accounts having outstanding of Rs 100 crore or more.
The sheer extent of the write-off would, in my view, perhaps, inject an element of public interest in the matter, which is the exception provided for in Section 8(1)(e) of the RTI Act, 2005, the court added. It also said this matter needs further examination and issued notice to Vazhakkala, a Kochi resident. The court also asked the RTI applicant to file counter affidavit within four weeks.
Rejoinder, if any, be filed before the next date of hearing. List on September 2, 2015, the court said. Vazhakkala in his plea before CIC had contended that he has sought informationin public interest and thedisclosure ofthe names of individuals and establishments would deter them from availing the loan from the other banks due to their past defaults.
The Commission had directed the SBI to provide the names, address of the individuals and establishments and amounts against them which were written off.