Canara Bank has written off bad loans worth thousands of crores of rupees and recovered paltry amounts from big defaulters. According to a report in Money Life, like other PSBs, Canara Bank also refused to share this information as well as names of defaulters under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
As per the report, data shared by Pune-based RTI activist Vivek Velankar shows that during the past eight-year period from FY12-13 to FY19-20, Canara Bank wrote off a total of Rs 47,310 crore while recovering just 19 per cent or Rs 8,901 crore from defaulters.
The report said Canara Bank too used vague reasons of privacy for not sharing information like names of big defaulters with a bad loan of Rs 100 crore and above.
In the reply to the RTI, the bank says, "Information sought is the personal information of the concerned and if disclosed would invade the privacy of those concerned and its disclosure does not have any relationship with public interest or activity and is exempted under section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act."
Velankar, who is also president of the Sajag Nagrik Manch, asks, "When a common borrower defaults, the same banks publish his name and all details through advertisements in newspapers. Then why do they want to keep names of big defaulters hidden under the privacy cause? Why doesn't the 'privacy' clause apply while publicising names of common borrowers?"
In several judgements, the Central Information Commission (CIC) had ruled that to qualify for the exemption under section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, the information must satisfy certain criteria, such as personal information and public interest.
The report said ordinarily, the adjective 'personal' is attributed to that which applies to an individual and not to an institution or a corporate. Therefore, it flows that 'personal' cannot be related to institutions, organisations or corporates, especially publicly listed entities with a large shareholding of retail investors.
Hence, Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act cannot be applied when the information concerns institutions, organisations or corporates.