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HDFC Bank, SBI move Supreme Court over RTI disclosure of confidential information of their borrowers

The HDFC Bank and the State Bank of India (SBI) on Friday 28 May 2021 moved the Supreme Court seeking a stay on the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) directive which states that lenders must provide financially confidential and sensitive data under the Right to Information Act, 2005. The two banks fear that the RBI directive could prove to be detrimental to their business and also compromise the confidentiality of their customers' information.

Although the two lenders sought the direction against RBI, it was aimed at the apex court's order that permitted disclosing such data. The Supreme Court earlier in 16 December 2015 judgment had restrained the RBI from disclosure under the RTI Act in the case of Reserve Bank of India v. Jayantilal N. Mistry, REED 2015 SC 12009. "In view of the judgment in Jayantilal N. Mistry case, the RBI is seeking disclosure of confidential and sensitive information of the applicant bank, including information of its employees and its customers, purportedly under the Right to Information Act, 2005, which are otherwise exempt under the provisions of Section 8 of RTI Act, 2005" advocate Sanjay Kapur on behalf of the SBI said.

Solicitor general Tushar Mehta and Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared on behalf of HDFC Bank and SBI, told to the Division bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices L. N. Rao and Aniruddha Bose that disclosing confidential and sensitive information such as inspection reports, risk assessment reports and annual financial inspection reports of banks would make the lenders at risk to their competitors. The competitors, could potentially exploit the RTI Act to extract the information regarding the trade secrets and internal strengths of other successful banks, they added.

The Supreme Court had earlier in 26 December 2015 restrained RBI from divulging such confidential information under the RTI Act. However, that interim order got washed away due to the apex court's 28 April 2021 judgment in which it refused to review the Jayantilal N. Mistry verdict.


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