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India top court: Why not name 87 people who owe govt banks $12.7 bn?

The court asked: 'What confidentiality? You have borrowed money from a public sector bank and you are not paying back. How is that confidential?' Photograph: (Getty)

New Delhi, India Oct 25, 2016, 09.02 AM (IST)

India's Supreme Court has asked the country's central bank why the names of 87 people who owe the country's public sector banks Rs 85,000 crore (USD 12.7 billion) should not be made public, the Indian Express reported. 

When the counsel for the Reserve Bank of India answered confidentiality, and that certain clauses in law would not allow such a disclosure, he was curtly shot down by the court which told him he should be working “in the interest of the country” and not that of the banks. 

After having gone through a list of defaulters handed over to it in a sealed envelope, the court bench – comprising Chief Justice of India TS Thakur, Justice DY Chandrachud, and Justice LN Rao – said 87 people on the list owe public sector banks Rs 500 crore or more. It added, “... why should we not put the names of these defaulters in public domain? The RBI publishes a list of wilful defaulters every year. It does not matter whether they are wilful defaulters or not but they certainly owe Rs 500 crore and more to the banks... people have a right to know.” 

In reply to his confidentiality argument, the court told the RBI counsel: “What confidentiality? You have borrowed money from a public sector bank and you are not paying back. How is that confidential? And how does that affect the RBI? It may affect the credibility of the person concerned if people know he owes such huge sums but why should RBI be concerned? We will make it clear all of them are not wilful defaulters but their names should become known to the public.” 

The counsel argued back that the Indian Bank Association was also a party to the case, and since it is the representative body for banking in India, it should be allowed to state its case as to why the disclosures should not be made. 

To this, the Indian Express reported, the bench retorted: “You should work in the interest of the country and not in the interest of the banks. Disclosure of information regarding bad loans running into crores is in the interest of the country. People have taken money and they are not paying back. You should ask them to pay back. That is in the interest of the country.”

The Indian Express added that the court set the next hearing for Friday, and asked the RBI counsel to come well prepared. “We will examine this on Friday and you come prepared for arguing. Why should their names be withheld? You will have to explain why should we hide this information from public which definitely has an interest in knowing who are these people.”


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