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Indian Banks Association Declared A Public Authority Under RTI Act By Full Bench of CIC [Read Orders]

A full Bench of the Central Information Commission has declared the Indian Banks Association (IBA) a public authority accountable under the Right to Information Act, 2005.

Two separate opinions were delivered by Information Commissioners Ms. Manjula Prasher and Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu to support the conclusion.

The Commission was hearing two separate RTI applications, one filed by Mr. R.K. Jain and another by Ms. Ita bose. Mr. Jain had sought information on inter alia the legal status of the IBA and the composition of its managing committee since IBA’s creation.

On refusal of the IBA to provide them with the requisite information, the complainants had requested referral of the matter to a larger bench for declaration of the IBA as a public authority. This was in view of a decision passed in 2008 by a single Information Commissioner, who had declared that IBA was not a public authority.

The Complainants had brought to the notice of the Court that a majority of the members of IBA’s Managing Committee, including its Chairman and Secretary are public servants. They had further submitted that the IBA makes substantial contribution to the functioning of several public sector banks and that its advice is following by these banks in affairs handled by them.

Opposing the stand of the complainants, the IBA had contended that it is neither a statutory body nor has been incorporated under any law. It had further pointed out that the funding of the IBA is by way of Basic Annual Subscription collected from all members of the Association.

Prof. Acharyulu’s reasoning

Prof. Acharyulu agreed with the submissions put forth by the complainants and observed, “The Chairman, 2 out of 3 Deputy Chairpersons and 14 Managing Committee members are from PSBs. Individually, they are accountable and answerable to the public. It shall be a conflict, contrary and defeat on the object of the RTI Act if these members i.e. Chairmen (public servants appointed by MOF) of Public Authorities are granted immunity from accountability, under the umbrella of IBA.”

He further opined that the IBA performs an important role in the decision making process of the banking industry and in that sense, performs a “public function”, which is one of the factors for declaring a body a public authority under the Act.

The IBA was also found to be an instrumentality of the State, considering the fact that the Government had tasked it with the responsibility to issue guidelines for employment in public sector banks.

Prof. Acharyulu then noted that Committee of the IBA comprises of 31 members, out of which 19 are Chairmen-cum-Managing directors of public sectors banks.

“Thus, 61.9% of members of managing committee are public servants or belong to public authorities under RTI Act. All decisions of IBA are taken by public servants while other members have insignificant say in decision making by IBA… Thus IBA is a body which is being managed and controlled by public servants of Govt. of India, since CMDs are employees of Central Govt.,” he further observed.

In view of such findings, Prof. Acharyulu declared the IBA to be a public authority and issued a show-cause notice to its Public Information Officer (PIO) who had denied information to the complainants.

Ms. Prasher’s reasoning

Ms. Prasher largely agreed with Prof. Acharyulu’s reasoning, observing, “We also note that IBA performs various activities, which are entrusted to them by the Government or the Reserve Bank of India. The functions performed by the IBA are mentioned in para 5 above in the submissions of the IBA, which are the important public functions. In our view, the IBA works as an instrumentality of the State.”

However, she did not subscribe to the view that IBA is directly or indirectly financed by the Government. She also expressed her disagreement with the order of issuing a show cause notice to the PIO, observing that the status of the IBA as a public authority is being decided only now.

She, nevertheless, arrived at a similar ruling, observing, “Taking into account that the IBA performs functions as State agency and its majority control vests in Government of India appointed Managing Directors of Public Sector Banks, the IBA qualifies to be a public authority under the RTI Act, 2005. The Commission, therefore, directs the IBA to designate an official of the IBA as the CPIO at the earliest as per provisions of Section 5 of the RTI Act, 2005 and also to comply with Section 4 of the RTI Act, 2005 within four weeks of the receipt of the order of the Commission.”

Read the Orders Here

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