The Bombay High Court on Thursday directed the Centre to file its reply to a petition filed by the Reserve Bank of India challenging an order by the Chief Information Commission (CIC) directing the RBI to disclose names of wilful defaulters and foreign donors on the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) watchlist.
The division bench of Justice B.P. Dharmadhikari and Justice S.V. Kotwal sought to know the Central government’s view on the matter and also asked the RBI to file its rejoinder to the CIC and applicant’s replies.
Once the CIC and applicant Ajay Gupta filed their replies to the RBI’s petition, Senior Advocate R.S. Apte sought time to file a reply and RBI’s counsel Mansi Mahida instructed by Udwadia & Co. also sought time as the reply was received recently.
The RBI had stated in its petition that the Union Home Ministry gave the information (sought by the petitioner) in a confidential manner and had communicated to the RBI not to disclose these names as it was a matter of national security which could be jeopardised with such disclosure.
Terming the CIC order arbitrary and illegal, the RBI stated that such information provided by the Union Home Ministry is passed to the banks and no database of such information is maintained.
The CIC, in the order dated June 28, 2018, had sought details of foreign donors placed by the Ministry of Home Affairs on the FCRA watchlist. In an order dated July 4, 2018, the CIC had directed the RBI to make the letter written by former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan regarding bad loans to the PMO, public.
Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi had directed the RBI to make public the wilful defaulter’s list which had names of defaulters who had taken loans over Rs 50 crore.
Later, in November, the CIC had issued a show cause notice to RBI Governor Urjit Patel for dishonouring the Supreme Court’s judgment on wilful defaulter’s list upholding Gandhi’s order.
The CIC had passed these directions in an application filed by Delhi resident Ajay Gupta wherein he was seeking information of foreign donations and donors on the FCRA watchlist from the RBI. Gupta is respondent No. 2 in the case, whereas the Centre is Respondent No. 3.
The court agreed to adjourn the case and gave time to the Centre and the RBI, posting the matter on December 18. Interim stay granted on the CIC’s directions to the RBI will continue until the next hearing.
Read the Order Here