People stand in line outside the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) headquarters in New Delhi, India. (Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg)

Bombay High Court Grants Interim Relief To RBI On Wilful Defaulter List 

The Bombay High Court today granted interim stay on orders passed by the Central Information Commission directing the Reserve Bank of India to submit a list of wilful defaulters.

A division bench of Justices BP Dharmadhikari and SV Kotwal also stayed a show cause notice issued on Nov. 2 this year by the CIC to former RBI Governor Urjit Patel for non-disclosure of the information sought and for defiance of its orders.

The RBI had petitioned the high court last month challenging the orders passed by the CIC directing it to disclose the details of wilful defaulters who have taken loans of more than Rs 1,000 crore at the beginning, and those with bad debt worth Rs 500 crore or less at a later stage.

On Nov. 2 this year, the CIC had issued a show cause notice to Patel for "dishonouring" a Supreme Court judgement on disclosure of wilful defaulters' list.

The notice was issued after the RBI failed to give the list.

The CIC, in its notice, said it considers the RBI governor as deemed public information officer responsible for non-disclosure and defiance of its orders.

The commission asked Patel to explain why maximum penalty should not be imposed on him.

On Nov. 16, the CIC once again asked the RBI to submit the list and also the previous RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan's letter on bad loans.

The CIC was hearing the plea of Sandeep Singh who had sought details of bank loan defaulters.

Senior counsel Venkatesh Dhond, appearing for RBI, told the high court on Friday that the CIC order has been passed without giving a hearing to RBI.

"Information of such nature if disclosed could harm the national economy. In such situation, the CIC order and the impugned notice issued on Nov. 2 are ex facie illegal, arbitrary and unsustainable," RBI said in its petition.

The bench, after hearing brief arguments in the case, issued notice to CIC and posted the matter for further hearing on April 10.

"Ad-interim relief sought in the petition for staying the operation, effect, finishings and other conclusions of the respondent is granted," the court said.