RTI Applications Keep Piling Up, Remain Unanswered in Public Sector Banks

The RTI backlog at the central bank had risen to 38,884 applications at the end of 2015-16 – three times the number of applications received by it during the year.

New Delhi: RTI applications at the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) have been piling up. As per the Central Information Commission’s (CIC) annual report for 2015-16, at the end of the year, the backlog at the central bank had risen to 38,884 applications – three times the number of applications received by it during the year.

Venkatesh Nayak, programme coordinator at Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), said that as compared to the previous year, the RBI dealt with at least 50,448 more RTI applications in 2015-16. However, the number of backlog cases also grew significantly during the same period.

Stating that this backlog was from the pre-demonetisation period, Nayak said, “So their preoccupation with pulling out 86% of the total currency that was in circulation in the country and the subsequent remonetisation efforts, post November 2016 cannot be a valid explanation for the backlog that existed in April 2015.”

The RTI activist said apart from the RBI, the Bank of India had also witnessed a high backlog of RTI applications, at 6,653 from 2014-15. Noting that the CIC had not commented on piling RTI applications in public sector banks, he said, “Ever since the Reserve Bank of India-appointed P.J. Nayak Committee submitted a report blaming RTI as one of the constraints on the governance of public sector banks in May 2014, CHRI has been analysing the RTI performance of 24 PSU banks.”

On the main findings of the analysis, Nayak said it had revealed that all together, the 24 public sector banks dealt with a total of 82,102 RTI applications during the year 2015-16, including the backlog from 2014-15. This amounted to about 7% of all the 11.65 lakh RTI applications which were handled by the 1,903 public authorities registered with the CIC. The applications handled by these public sector banks were almost 40% of the 2.06 lakh RTI applications dealt with by the finance ministry.

Further, the analysis revealed that if the backlog from 2014-15 was deducted, the RTI applications received by the banks constituted almost 48% of the 1.55 lakh RTI applications received by the Ministry of Finance in 2015-16.

The largest number of RTI applications, 25,345, were received by the State Bank of India in 2015-16. They amounted to over a third (34.12%) of all the RTI applications received by the 24 public sector banks. With 8,181 RTI applications, the Punjab National Bank received the second highest requests for information, followed by the Bank of Baroda with 5,073 RTI applications at the third place.

As for the increase in the number of RTI applications, the analysis revealed that the in terms of percentage, IDBI Bank Limited posted the highest growth, followed by Bank of Maharashtra at 37.33% and the Indian Bank at 12.58%.

On the other hand, some banks showed a continuous decline in the number of RTI applications received. During 2015-16, the number of applications received by the United Bank of India declined 79% over the previous year to reach a paltry 135. Central Bank of India also posted lower applications, in keeping with a trend which began in 2013-14.

As for the rejection of RTI applications, Nayak said the United Bank of India rejected 65.2% of the applications. He said while the proportion of rejection had increased nearly ten-fold in 2015-16 as it had a less than 6.5% rejection rate since 2013, overall too, the rejections rates had gone up in the 24 public sector banks with Andhra Bank (56%) and State Bank of Hyderabad (51.9%) rejecting more than half the applications they received in 2015-16.

Nayak said when it came to the RTI load on these banks, they averaged over two RTI applications per office (up from 1.79 in 2014-15). “So,” he said, “the RTI statistics submitted by the banks to the CIC do not prove the ‘constraint theory’ regarding their governance which was looked upon approvingly by the P.J. Nayak Committee in 2014.”

The analysis, he said, also did not reveal any apparent correlation between the volume of non-performing assets and the increase or decrease in the number of RTI applications received or rejected by the public sector banks. For this, Nayak said, a content analysis of the RTI applications received and the manner of their disposal was the need of the hour.

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