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Friday, April 27, 2012

J&K Bank to challenge SIC judgment in High Court

RTI order calls for making public names of major loan defaulters

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Apr 26: Jammu and Kashmir Bank Ltd (JKB) has decided to challenge State Information Commission’s ruling of declaring it as a “Public Authority” and making it bound to provide information under RTI Act of 2009, in J&K High Court.

Highly placed sources revealed to Early Times that JKB was not going to implement SIC’s order of providing information to applicants under RTI 2009. As reported in detail in today’s newspapers, SIC’s full bench judgment, as pronounced on April 24th, has declared the bank as “Public Authority” and thus made it bound by law to provide information to the applicants under RTI Act of 2009.

Sources said that after telephonic conversations with senior advocate Zaffar Ahmad Shah, who represented JKB in SIC, and top functionaries associated with legal department of the bank, Chairman Mushtaq Ahmad was strongly holding the opinion of contesting the SIC order in the appellate forum. According to these sources, issues could be discussed also with Directors on Board and a formal decision of challenging the SIC order was likely to be taken by Saturday next.

Chairman, according to sources, was busy with holding the interviews for Vice Presidents on Thursday and Friday. On Saturday, he was expected to take a formal decision, possibly after taking Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and Finance Minister, Abdul Rahim Rather, too into confidence. Both, according to sources, were averse to bringing JKB under purview of RTI Act and had accordingly advised both Houses of Legislature not to admit any questions, discussions, resolutions, calling attention motions or legislation on functioning of the bank.

On bank’s behalf, counsel Z A Shah had forcefully argued before SIC that bringing JKB under purview of RTI Act could lead to “exploiters” filing petitions to harass and blackmail the bank official and leadership. That argument, however, was not taken as tenable by the SIC full bench, headed by Chief Information Commissioner Ghulam Rasool Sufi. Mr Sufi believed that most of such apprehensions, though not completely unreal, had been addressed and necessary safeguards stood adequately provided in sections Nos 8, 10 and 11 of the RTI Act of 2009.

While as JKB’s Executive President (Law), Sahibzada Ghulam Mohiuddin, did not respond to phone calls, President (Law), Roop Krishen Shah, asserted that he could give the bank’s formal reaction to the SIC judgment on Saturday. “We have received authentic copy of the judgment today and begun to examine it in detail. Yes, we may challenge it but we can tell you only tomorrow or the day after”, Mr Shah said. Incharge of the bank’s public relations and media at Corporate Communications, Sajjad Bazaz, too maintained that a formal reaction would be available only on Saturday next.

Sources, nevertheless, disclosed that the bank leadership was particularly perturbed over the direction of providing details of the loan defaulters, who had outstanding of over Rs 50 Lakh against them, to the RTI activists. “Chairman Sahab wants to maintain customer-friendly ambience of the bank. He was among the officials who had resisted to the condemned practice of taking drum-beaters to the doorsteps of defaulters in the past. He is keen to ensure recoveries but also particular to see that the bank did not become source of embarrassment for many of the respected traders who had fallen under slump but had not the intention of grabbing the bank’s money”, said an official.

However, quite a number of functionaries, including those on middle ranks, believed that implementation of RTI Act would enhance transparency and accountability and thus lead to more of the customers’ faith in the working of the financial institution. “It’s a fundamentally strong bank. RTI or no RTI would not matter. We have completely come out the recession and our share price is about to reach back to the dream line of Rs 1000. Our business will be Rs 100,000 Crore and profit over Rs 1,000 by the end of this financial year”, said another senior executive.

After dismissing the bank’s arguments, SIC has directed the Chairman to provide to one of the complainants complete list of those defaulters who owed more than Rs 50 lakh to the bank. Yet another perturbing direction wanted delivery of complete list of the candidates who had appeared in last year’s competitive examination for selection of Banking Associates. While as one of the nine clubbed petitioners has sought copy of the marks sheet, another has demanded all particulars, including name, parentage, residence, qualification and marks obtained in the personality test by the selected candidates.

Admitting the arguments of advocate Vilakshana Singh, who was also one among the nine petitioners who had challenged the bank’s refusal of providing them information under RTI Act, SIC has directed Chairman JKB to implement the judgment within one month.


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