New Delhi: The Central Information Commission (CIC) has asked the Union government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to disclose the names of wilful defaulters of 50 crore and above and the action taken against them, saying every taxpaying citizen has a right to know about it.

The direction came recently from central information commissioner M. Sridhar Acharyulu while hearing a plea seeking information. Acharyulu pointed out that defaulters of small amounts like farmers are defamed in public, while defaulters above 50 crore were given a long rope, news agency PTI reported on Wednesday quoting the written order.

Defaulters above 50 crore were given high concessions in the name of one time settlements, interest waivers and several other privileges and their names are hidden from exposure to secure their reputation, the PTI report said quoting the order.

RBI and banks have been making serious efforts to recover dues from wilful defaulters and to bring them to book. The central bank has shown some reluctance in disclosing the names of wilful defaulters , but banks such as Punjab National Bank (PNB) name and shame wilful defaulters as part of recovery efforts.

State-owned banks have in the last three financial years and the first quarter of FY19 recovered 1.61 trillion from wilful defaulters, according to official data.

As of 30 June 2018, wilful defaulters owe over 15,300 crore to PNB and more than 34,200 crore to the State Bank of India, minister of state for finance Shiv Pratap Shukla had informed Parliament in July.

The CIC order said that Right to Information Act makes it mandatory for government department to publish all relevant facts including the rationale while making policies or announcing decisions that affect the public.

Acharyulu also said that the finance ministry, the ministry for statistics and programme implementation and RBI have a “duty" to inform people from time to time about their policy on dealing with wilful defaulters of 50 crore and above, the order said.

Emails sent to the finance ministry, the ministry for statistics and programme implementation and RBI remained unanswered till the time of going to press.

The order also directed the ministries and RBI to give reasons for the failure in disclosing these details, the criminal actions initiated against wilful defaulters or reasons for not doing so. “If they cannot submit any part of that information, they may chose to explain why should they not be directed to publish the details of the information sought including the names of wilful defaulters, before 20 September 2018," the PTI report said quoting the CIC order.

Banks refrain from extending further credit to wilful defaulters, while capital market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) bars wilful defaulters from raising capital from the market. Under the bankruptcy code, defaulting promoters are not allowed to win their companies back unless they pay back dues to lenders first. The government also introduced legislation to attachment and confiscation of fugitive economic offenders’ properties. It has also asked banks to review all bad loans above Rs50 crore to find instances of fraud and wilful default and collect passport details of such promoters.

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