Cannot disclose reasons behind demonetisation, says RBI
New Delhi, Dec 30: The Reserve Bank of India has refused to reveal the reasons for scrapping Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes, besides declining to disclose the minutes of the RBI Board meeting when demonetisation was discussed on November 8, an RTI activist said.
The RBI said it was not bound to disclose such information given the issue of national security and related implications in it. The information was sought by an RTI activist Venkatesh Nayak.
"RBI rejected access to its board meeting minutes and recommendations made to the government and related file notings under Sections 8(1)(a), 7 (9) of the RTI Act," Nayak told IANS.
Section 8(1)(a) has various grounds of sovereignty, integrity, economic interests, security interests, scientific interests and foreign relations. While Section 7(9) was the ground for refusing to give information in the form in which it was asked for reasons that it should not result in destruction of records or excessive expenses towards compilation of the information.
"The refusal to disclose the minutes of the RBI Board meeting where the decision was taken to recommend demonetisation is perplexing to say the very least," Nayak said. While confidentiality prior to the making of the decision was understandable, continued secrecy after the decision was implemented was difficult to understand, Nayak added.
This was especially when crores of Indians were facing difficulties due to the shortage of cash supply, he said. Nayak had also filed a separate RTI with the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) of the Finance Ministry seeking copies of the cabinet note regarding the scrapping of the old currency notes.
"I also sought to know whether the government had sought people's views on the issue prior to making the demonetisation decision," he said. "Despite 40 days lapsing since the delivery of the RTI application to the DEA, it has not responded," he added.
Not responding to an RTI application for 30 days is deemed as a refusal to disclose the requested information under Section 7(2) of the RTI Act.
Nayak, however, said that the lack of response on the part of DEA was not surprising because the decision to maintain undue secrecy appeared to be sanctioned at the highest level of the bureaucracy.
"When the DEA and RBI want every citizen of the country to come clean in the name of combating black money, corruption and fake currency notes, their reluctance to become equally transparent and accountable is unjustified, to the say the very least," Nayak said.
"RBI and DEA have a statutory obligation to be completely transparent and accountable to the people of India on the subject of demonetisation," he added.
If there cannot be complete transparency on this issue, then it must be assumed that the transparency regime has simply not taken roots in India even after 11 years of implementation of the RTI Act, Nayak said.
The activist said that he has already appealed against the DEA for not replying to his RTI query. He also said that he would soon appeal against the RBI decision to not disclose the reasons behind the demonetisation.