What is 'Right to Information Act, 2005'?
'The Right To Information Act, 2005' enacted by the Government of India is for the citizens of India to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of public authority.
Date of Enactment of Right to Information Act, 2005.
The Right to Information Act received President's assent on 15th June 2005. The provisions of sub sections (1) of Section 4, sub-sections (1) and (2) of Section 5, sections 12, 13, 15, 16, 24, 27 and 28 came into force at the very instant while the remaining portions came into effect from October 13, 2005. The Right to Information Act (The Act) is applicable to the whole of India except the State of Jammu & Kashmir.
How and What to Access?
The Right To Information includes an access to the information which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes the right to inspect the work, document, records, taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents / records and certified samples of the materials and obtaining information which is also stored in electronic form. All Public Sector Banks being constituted by an Act of Parliament are "Public Authorities".
Who can give the Information?
The Act provides for appointment of a Chief Public Information officer to deal with requests for information. Public Information Officers are also to be designated in all Administrative Units or Offices.
Who can Request for Information and How?
- Any citizen can request for information by making an application in writing or through electronic means in English / Hindi / official language of the area.
- The request shall be accompanied by an application fee of Rs.10/- by way of cash against proper receipt or by demand draft/banker's cheque/IPO.
- If such request for information cannot be made in writing, the Public Information Officer shall render assistance to reduce the same in writing.
- No fees shall be charged from the persons who are of below the poverty line.
What are the Exemptions from Disclosure of Information?
The Act provides under Sections 8 and 9, certain categories of information that are exempt from disclosure to the citizens.
Exemption from disclosure of information from The Right to Information Act:
Section 8 (1)
Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen,-
(a) information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence;
(b) information which has been expressly forbidden to be published by any court of law or tribunal or the disclosure of which may constitute contempt of court;
(c) information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature;
(d) information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information;
(e) information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information;
(f) information received in confidence from foreign Government;
(g) information, the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes;
(h) information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders;
(i) cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers;
Provided that the decisions of Council of Ministers, the reasons thereof, and the material on the basis of which the decisions were taken shall be made public after the decision has been taken, and the matter is complete, or over;
Provided further that those matters which come under the exemptions specified in this section shall not be disclosed;
(j) information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information;
It is also further clarified that in terms of pronouncement of Supreme Court judgment, Public Sector Banks can therefore refuse to disclose information about affairs of their customers on the ground that such disclosure will cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of the customers, pursuant to Section 8(1) (j) of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
Provided that the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.
What is the Time Limit for Disposal of Requests?
The time limit of request for information to be disposed of is within 30 days from the date of receipt of request.
What are the obligations of Public Authorities?
Every Public Authority shall maintain all its records as specified in the Act and publish the following as stated in the Act : The particulars of its organization, functions and duties, the powers and duties of its officers and employees, decision making process, including channels of supervision and accountability, the norms for the discharge of its functions, the rules, regulations, instructions, manuals and records used by its employees, a statement of the categories of the documents held, arrangement that exists for consultation with the members of the public, in relation to the formulation and implementation of policy, committees constituted and whether their meetings are open to the public, or the minutes of such meetings are accessible to the public, a directory of its officers and employees, the monthly remuneration of officers and employees, and system of compensation, the budget allocated, plans, expenditure and disbursements, details of subsidy programmes, particulars of concessions, permits or authorizations, details of the information available in an electronic form, facilities for obtaining information, particulars of Public Information Officers.
OTHER OBLIGATIONS :
Section 4(1) (c) :
Publish all relevant facts while formulating important policy or announcing the decisions which affect public.
Section 4 (1) (d) :
Provide reasons for its administrative or quasi-judicial decisions to affected persons.
Section 11 :
Third Party Information: Information Officer is empowered to disclose any information supplied by a third party and has been treated as confidential by that third party, after informing the intention to disclose the information to that third party, within five days from the receipt of the request.
If information asked for consists of exempt information and accessible information and two parts can be segregated, non-exempt information should be furnished.
Who cannot have access to information?
It is now well settled that the rights conferred by Article 19 are confined to natural persons who are citizens and that a corporation not being a citizen cannot claim any of the rights included in that article even though their shareholders are citizens. Since a company is not a natural person and a citizen, it has no right to information under the Act.
Appointment of Appellate Authority and Public Information Officer :
In terms of Section 5(1) of the Act, the Bank has appointed the following Appellate Authorities & CPIOs.
Applicability of the Act under section 4 (1) b to UCO BANK
Section 4(I) ( b) (i):
Particulars of the Organisation, Function and Duties:
The Bank was incorporated on 6th January 1943 at Calcutta with the name "United Commercial Bank Ltd." The Bank was nationalised under the Banking Companies (Acquisition & Transfer of Undertakings) Act, 1970 on 19th July 1969 and consequently became a new entity and came to be known as "United Commercial Bank". From 30th December, 1985, the name of the bank was changed to "UCO BANK" by an Act of the Parliament.
The Bank's Registered Office is at 10, B.T.M. Sarani, Kolkata – 700 001.
The Bank is governed by the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 and is engaged in various businesses as defined under Section 6 of the said Act. The main function of the Bank is to accept deposits from the public and lend to the public as per the norms prescribed by the RBI/ Government of India and as prescribed by the Bank's Board and other Committees attached to the Board and rendering of services to customers such as collection of Cheques and issuance of Demand Drafts. Presently, the Government of India's share in the Bank is 77.20% as at the end of March 2014. The Bank is managed by a duly constituted Board of Directors which includes nominees from Government of India, Reserve Bank of India, Shareholders and various professional fields and a representative each from officers and employees.
The Bank has three tier organisational structure - Corporate, Zonal Offices and Branches. As of 31.03.2016, the Bank has 49 Zonal Offices, 3077 branches –3073 in India and 4 in Overseas Centres (2 each in Singapore and Hong Kong). In addition, there are 23 Service branches, 21 FC/MC Branches, 7 Asset Management Branches and one Integrated Treasury Management Branch at Mumbai. The Organisational Chart is given in Annexure ‘B'.
Section 4 (I) (b) (ii): Powers and Duties of its Officers and Employees:
The Bank has well laid down system of delegation of lending and non-lending powers to be exercised by the officers and executives of the Bank depending upon their scale of pay. The rights and duties of the Officers and employees are governed by UCO BANK (OFFICERS') SERVICE REGULATIONS, 1979 and UCO BANK Officer Employees (Conduct) Regulations, 1976. Award staff employees are governed by the industry level settlement (Bipartite Settlements) entered into by Indian Banks' Association with the recognized employee organisations.
Section 4 (I) (b) (iii): Procedures followed in the decision making process:
There is a well-defined system in the Bank for decision making. The Bank functions under the overall supervision and control of Board of Directors of the Bank to formulate the policies pertaining to the Bank's functioning. For implementation of such policies there is a well laid down hierarchical system. All officers and employees of the Bank have to follow the prescribed rules and procedures as laid down in ‘The Manual of Instructions' and circulars issued from time to time. Decisions are taken according to the prescribed powers of delegation. All loan proposals sanctioned are reported to the higher authority to ensure clear accountability.
Section 4 (I) (b) (iv): Norms set by the Bank for discharge of its functions:
For discharge of its functions, the Bank is guided by the norms set out by the Government of India and the Reserve Bank of India. Details of all products viz., deposits, advances and other are available on the Banks website and also at branches of the Bank. The Head office decides the interest rates to be offered by the Bank for the term deposits which are displayed in the branches. The Bank has a ‘Deposit Policy' and a ‘Fair Practice Code' for Bankers. Loans are sanctioned keeping a holistic view about the proposal.
However, it should be noted that whether to sanction a loan or not is in the absolute discretion of the concerned sanctioning authority of the Bank and such discretion is exercised, after taking into consideration the relevant facts and circumstances of each case. The information relating to sanctioning of loans, particulars of loan account and any related information is exempted from disclosure.
Section 4 (I) (b) (v): Rules, Regulations, Instructions, Manual and Records held by the Bank:
The Bank has issued Manual of Instructions on different subjects, codified circulars, scheme for delegation of powers, guidelines on documentation and the periodical circulars used by the employees for discharging various functions. They are all meant for internal circulation only.
Section 4 (I) (b) (vi): Statement of the categories of documents that are held by the Bank:
These are mainly registers of shareholders/records of the proceedings of AGMs, Board meetings and various committee meetings, documents executed by customers/borrowers/ guarantors, contracts with third parties, etc.
These are all private information and of commercial value and cannot be shared with public.
Section 4 (I) (b) (vii): Particulars of any arrangement that exists for consultation with, or representation by, the members of the public in relation to the formulation of its policy or implementation thereof:
As per the present arrangement, the shareholders can raise issues concerning policies in Annual General Meetings. Further the Bank's Quarterly / Half yearly / Annual results are published in leading newspapers as well as putting the same on Bank's web site for information of public as well as the shareholders which would give an idea of the policies of the bank and implementation thereof.
Section 4 (I) (b) (viii): Statement of Boards, councils, committees and other bodies consisting of two or more persons:
The Board of Directors and various other Committees of the Board are detailed below:
Board of Directors
Different Committees of Board
None of the meetings of the Board of Directors or Committees are open to public and the minutes of such meetings are also not accessible to the public.
Section 4 ( I ) (b) (ix): Directory of its officers and employees:
As the number of officers and employees is quite large and they are frequently liable to transfer from place to place, it is not possible to publish the list of officers / employees. Therefore any person interested in seeking information about any officer or employee can approach the designated Central Public Information Officers of the Bank.
Section 4 ( I ) (b) (x): Monthly remuneration received by each of its officers and employees, including the system of compensation as provided in its regulations
The Officers and employees are paid salaries and allowances as per the settlements arrived between the IBA and Bank's Unions which is put on IBA's website. These Settlements are approved by the Bank's Board and put into effect by the Bank.
Section 4 ( I ) (b) (xi): Budget allocated to each of its agency, indicating the particulars of all plans, proposed expenditures and reports on disbursements made
There are no plans and budgets for expenditure and disbursements and the provision is not applicable to banks.
Section 4 ( I ) (b) (xii): Manner of execution of subsidy programmes, including the amounts allocated and the details of beneficiaries of such programmes
There are no subsidy programmes or plans for lending activities of the Bank. The Bank however, implements the Government's schemes for which the subsidy is made available by the Government and the same is disbursed to the beneficiaries according to the scheme framed by the Government.
Section 4 ( I ) (b) (xiii): Particulars of recipients of concessions, permits or authorizations granted by it
There are no programmes in the bank for grant of concessions, permits, authorizations and the business activity of the bank has no relationship with any public activity or public interest.
Section 4 ( I ) (b) (xiv): Details in respect of the information, available to or held by it, reduced in an electronic form
All the general information regarding deposits, advances and other services offered by the Bank are available in the bank's website.
Section 4 ( I ) (b) (xv): Particulars of facilities available to citizens for obtaining information:
The public can approach the Public Information Officers for information regarding Banks' various Products which are also available in the Banks' website.
Consumer Redressal Mechanism
- A specific day in a week is kept aside at Head Office, at Circle Office and at the level of the Branch Manager, Zonal Manager for interaction with the customers. A schedule of such meetings is shown in Annexure "C"
- A customer complaints register is maintained at all branches.
- A specific time schedule is set up for handling complaints & disposing them at all levels including the branches and Zonal Offices.
- All complaints received at operational levels are acknowledged positively within three days of its receipt and disposed of/redressed within a maximum period of thirty days from the date of receipt of the complaint.
Regulation of Fee and Cost
According to the Supplementary notification of Government of India, in exercise of the power conferred by clause (b) and (c) of Sub section (2) of Section 27 of Right to Information Act 2005, the central Government made the following rules regarding fees and cost:
- A request for obtaining information under sub-section (1) of section 6 of the Act shall be accompanied by an application fee of Rupees 10/ (Rupees ten) by way of cash against proper receipt or by demand draft or bankers cheque or by Indian Postal Order.
- For providing the information under sub-section (1) of section 7 of the Act, the fee shall be charged by way of cash against proper receipt or by demand draft or bankers' cheque payable at the following rates:
- Rupees two for each page (in A-4 or A-3 size paper) created or copied;
- Actual Charge or cost price of a copy in larger size paper;
- Actual Cost or price for samples or models; and
- For inspection of records, no fee for the first hour; and a fee of rupees five for each fifteen minutes (or fraction thereof) thereafter.
- For providing the information under sub-section (5) of section 7 of the Act, the fee shall be charged by way of cash against proper receipt or by demand draft or bankers' cheque payable at the following rates:
- For information provide in diskette or floppy rupees fifty per diskette or floppy; and
- For information provided in printed form at the price fixed for such publication or rupees two per page of photocopy for extracts from the publication.
Section 4(1) (b) (xvi): The Names, Designations and particulars of Public Information Officers:
The details are in Annexure 'A'
Section 4(1) (b) (xvii) : Any other information:
As and when there are changes in the policy, the same would be notified.