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Public sector banks account for 33% of Govt of India's RTI rejections, coinciding with sharp rise in NPAs or bad debts

Counterview Desk
India’s 25 public sector banks (PSBs) received more than 73,000 Right to Information (RTI) applications in the financial year 2016-17, which is 9% of the total number of RTI applications received by all reporting public authorities of the Government of India. However, a new study has found that they accounted for a whopping 33% of the rejections, too.
Bringing this to light, the study by the well-known Delhi-based advocacy group Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), has said that this suggests resistance to transparency has “increased during this period, particularly when the banking sector is going through a difficult phase.”
Thus, the study finds that, in 11 PSBs, during the year 2016-17, both the number of RTI applications and the volume of net non-performing assets (NPAs) or bad debts increased.
These are: Andhra Bank (3.67% : 71.56%), Bank of Maharashtra (3.99% : 62.29%), Canara Bank (36.56% : 3.92%), Corporation Bank (34.93% : 27.64%), Dena Bank (2.19% : 47.88%), IDBI Bank Ltd. (1.63% : 72.13%), Indian Bank (7.65% : 3.45%) Indian Overseas Bank (5.71% : 2.79%), State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur (3.14% : 240.60%), Syndicate Bank (17.94% : 15.49%) and United Bank of India (608.89% : 7.87%).
“Only 2 PSBs, namely, Punjab National Bank (-5.70% : -7.68%), Bank of Baroda (-5.20% : -6.83%) reported a downward trend in the receipt of RTI applications and fall in the size of net NPAs”, the study says.
The highest rejections, says the study, was by the State Bank of Hyderabad, which rejected a record 71% RTI applications, followed by the Oriental Bank of Commerce 50% rejection rate, Corporation Bank 47.3%, Andhra Bank 45.9%, Dena Bank and Canara Bank both 40%, and so on.
Prepared by senior RTI activist Venkatesh Nayak, the study says, as for Punjab National Bank, which has been in the news recently because of the more than USD 1.8 billion- Letters of Undertaking (LoU) fraud allegedly committed in collusion with certain business houses, rejected almost 33% RTI applications.
The study reveals, a large number of PSBs and Reserve Bank of India rejected more RTI applications under “Others” category instead of the legally permissible exemptions to disclosure provided under the RTI Act. In the “Others” category, PSBs rejected 6,625 RTI applications, as against 6,616 RTI applications were rejected under Section 8(1)(j), relating to personal information and the protection available for privacy – the most frequently invoked of legally permissible exemptions.
The study, which is based on the data made available in the Chief Information Commission’s Annual Report, “RBI also rejected more than half (57%) of the RTI applications it received in 2016-17 under ‘Others’ category.”
Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act was the most frequently invoked of legally permissible exemptions, says the study. Under this provision the disclosure of personal information of an individual whose privacy must be protected is exempt. State Bank of India invoked this exemption to reject more than 1,100 RTI applications along with 10 other PSBs that rejected more than 200 RTI applications by invoking this exemption.
While all 25 PSBs and RBI invoked Section 8(1)(e) of the RTI Act to reject between six to more than 900 RTI applications, State Bank of India invoked this Section to reject 902 RTI applications – almost three times more than Syndicate Bank and Canara Bank, both of which rejected more than 380 RTI applications each, the study says.
Section 8(1)(e) of the RTI Act exempts information that is available to a person in his fiduciary relationship. Fiduciary relationships are trust-based relationships such as those between a doctor and a patient, a lawyer and a client, parents and their children, managers of orphanages and the wards living there.
The study further says, Ten PSBs invoked the Cabinet-related exemption of the RTI Act [Section 8(1)(i)] to reject 223 RTI applications. Interestingly, Two thirds of these RTI applications were rejected by only two PSBs, State Bank of India and Corporation Bank.
Twenty four PSBs invoked Section 8(1)(d) more than 4,200 times to reject RTI applications in 2016-17. Section 8(1)(d) of the RTI Act protects information that is in the nature of commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property rights (IPRs) where disclosure will harm the competitive position of a “third party”.

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