CIC: there is a provision in the rules of the bank to publish certain NPA details in newspapers & such information can be shared with the appellant; inspection of record for accounts where action under SARFAESI Act is being taken permitted
1. The appellant, Shri Sandeep Godika, vide his RTI application dated the 13th March, 2013 sought certain information from the CPIO of SBBJ, Jaipur.
2. Vide letter dated 4.4.2013, the CPIO provided the information requested for. However, in respect of Point No. 2(b) he denied the information on the ground that the same pertains to other Account Holders and is exempt under clauses (d), (e) and (j) of subsection (1) of section 8 of the RTI Act and that no larger public interest exists to disclose the same. He filed first appeal questioning the reply with regard to Point 1(b) and 2(b). His first appeal dated 9.5.2013 against the reply of CPIO was rejected vide order dated 18.5.2013 as in his opinion the requested for information falls under the exempted categories of section 8(1).
3. Against the order of the First Appellate Authority, Shri Godika has filed second appeal. His main grounds of challenge are that – (i) the CPIO has failed to provide details of each account separately and also failed to provide copy of note sheet; (ii) As per the information supplied by the CPIO, there is a provision of publishing the names and photos of Account Holders in the newspapers. Therefore, if the names and photos can be published in the newspapers, then the requested for information cannot be confidential; (iii) It is clearly stated in section 8 that “Provided that the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.”
4. The stand of the CPIO and the First Appellate Authority is that since the information asked for by the appellant relates to other account holders, it is exempt under clauses (d), (e) and (j) of section 8 (1) of the RTI Act and there is no public interest in disclosing the information.
5. The matter was heard today. The respondent has not filed any written reply to the appeal. I have gone through the documents on record and the arguments advanced during the hearing. It is noticed that both the CPIO and the FAA have not given any reason for coming to the conclusion that the information is exempt under clauses (d), (e) and (j) of section 8 (1) of the RTI Act and that there is no public interest involved in disclosing the information.
6. It has already been held by the Commission in its order dated 16.9.2009 passed in Appeal No. CIC/PB/A/2008/00946/SM etc. that the Bank assigns the NPA accounts of borrowers only after it fails to recover its dues. This act marks an end of any confidential relationship that might have existed between the Bank and those borrowers.
7. As per the information sought in Point No. 1(b), the respondents stated that the information relating to different stages of recovery of the loans given is not readily available with them. Collecting such information would result in disproportionate diversion of resources. Besides, the recovery situation changes from day to day.
8. The contention of the appellant that there is a provision to publish the names and photos of the NPA account holders in the newspapers is not disputed.
9. For Point No. 2(b), the respondents stated that the information of 111 cases is not available with them in a consolidated manner; therefore, it will require time and manpower to collect it. The CPIO stated that he will be able to provide the names of newspapers where the name, photograph are published in case of those accounts in which action under SARFAESI Act is being taken. CPIO’s contention that the information is denied under 8(1)(d), (e) &(j) of the RTI Act, 2005, cannot be upheld. The CIC decision dated 16.9.2009 in appeal no. CIC/PB/A/2008/000946SM & SM/A/2008/000015 refers to in this matter according to which “The bank assigns the NPA accounts of borrowers only after it fails to recover its dues. This act marks an end of any confidential relationship that might have existed between the bank and those borrowers.”
10. However, the Commission has also held in its order dated 18.04.2012 passed in Appeal No.CIC/SG/A/2012/000471 in which the present appellant was also the appellant wherein it is held as follows: “In the present matter, very clearly a fiduciary relationship exists, since all customers of the Respondent public authority come to it because of the implicit trust they have; and they provide information to the bank for their own benefit. Customers also have a choice of which bank they wish to approach. Hence, unless a large public interest is shown the information is exempted from disclosure and no case of larger public interest has been established in the instant case. Therefore, the names and details of NPA borrowers is exempt under Section 8(1)(e) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information; of the RTI Act.”
11. In the instant case admittedly there is a provision in the rules of the bank to publish certain NPA details in newspapers and, therefore, the information which is already published in the newspaper can be shared by the CPIO with the appellant.
12. In view of the larger public interest involved in the matter as the volumes of NPAs are huge amounting to over two lac crore in case of nationalized and public sector banks alone (source, Deportment of Banking Supervision, RBI) as on 31.3.1013, the CPIO is directed to allow inspection of record with reference to point 1(b) of the RTI request only for accounts where action under SARFAESI Act is being taken, severing any confidential information at a mutually convenient date and time and give the details regarding news papers with dates on which the details of 111 NPA cases were published, within three weeks of the receipt of the order of the Commission The CPIO‘s decision is upheld with respect to the other points of the RTI application.
13. The appeal is disposed of with above directions.
14. Copy of this order be given free of cost to the parties.
Citation: Shri Sandeep Godika v. SBBJ in Appeal: No. CIC/VS/A/2013/001062/MP