The Supreme Court in Reserve Bank of India v. Jayantilal N. Mistry, decided on 16.12.2015 held that Reserve Bank of India cannot deny giving information under the Right to Information Act, 2005, on the grounds of economic interest, commercial confidence and fiduciary relationship with other banks. The Court further added that the Reserve Bank of India must comply with the provisions of Right to Information Act, 2005 and there exists no fiduciary relationship between Reserve Bank of India and other Banks.
Reserve Bank of India filed several appeals against various orders passed by the Central Information Commission and High Courts over disclosure of information relating to banks. The Court while disposing off the appeals held that, ‘this attitude of the Reserve Bank Of India will only attract more suspicion and disbelief in them.’
A bench comprising of Justice M.Y. Eqbal and Justice C. Nagappan noted that many public information officers routinely denied information sought under RTI ‘under the guise of one of the exceptions’ provided under the 2005 Act. The court condemned this, saying it was in national interest, as well as in economic interest to have more informed populace.
In order to bolster transparency, the Court further observed that, ‘the ideal of government by the people makes it necessary that people have access to information on matters of public concern…..The free flow of information about affairs of government paves the way for debate in public policy and fosters accountability in government.’
The Court went on to remark ‘Reserve Bank of India is supposed to uphold public interest and not the interest of banks. Reserve Bank of India is clearly not in any fiduciary relationship with any ban,…..Reserve Bank of India has no legal duty to maximize the benefit of any public sector or private sector bank, and thus there is no relationship of ‘trust’ between them.’