The Supreme Court has refused to grant interim stay on the RBI's notice asking Punjab National Bank to disclose information such as defaulters list and its inspection reports under the RTI Act, and sought responses from the Centre, federal bank and its central public information officer. The apex court tagged the plea of the Punjab National Bank (PNB), which is a public sector unit bank, with a similar pending case filed by HDFC Bank against the RBI's direction.
"Issue notice. Tag with writ petition (Civil) No.1159 of 2019 (HDFC plea)," a bench comprising justices S Abdul Nazeer and Krishna Murari said, and fixed the plea for hearing on July 19. Banks are aggrieved by the notices issued by the RBI to them under Section 11(1) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act asking them to part with information pertaining to their inspection reports and risk assessment.
The RTI Act empowers the RBI's central public information officer (CPIO) to seek information from banks for information seekers. Earlier on April 28, the top court, on legal grounds, had refused to recall its famous 2015 judgment in the Jayantilal N Mistry case, which had held that the RBI will have to provide information about banks and financial institutions (FIs) regulated by it under the transparency law.
Several FIs and banks, including Canara Bank, Bank of Baroda, UCO Bank and Kotak Mahindra Bank had filed applications in the top court seeking a recall of the 2015 judgment in the Jayantilal N Mistry case, saying the verdict had far-reaching consequences and moreover, they were directly and substantially affected by it. The banks had contended that the pleas for a recall of the judgment, instead of a review, is "maintainable" as there was a violation of the principles of natural justice in view of the fact that they were neither parties to the matter nor heard.
"A close scrutiny of the applications for a recall makes it clear that in substance, the applicants are seeking a review of the judgment in Jayantilal N Mistry. Therefore, we are of the considered opinion that these applications are not maintainable," the apex court had held. While dismissing the pleas, the bench, however, had made it clear that it was not dealing with any of the submissions made by the banks on the correctness of the 2015 judgment.
Now, the apex court is seized of several pleas of banks like HDFC and Punjab National Bank against the RBI's direction to disclose information under RTI.