Before he retired on 20 November, for over four months, M Sridhar Acharyulu was at the heart of a tussle between a citizen and the government of India regarding a list of wilful defaulters of bank loans amounting to several thousand crores of public money. Acharyulu, as the central information commissioner, was hearing the second appeal against the denial of a Right to Information request by Sandeep Singh Jadoun. In February, Jadoun, filed an RTI with the director general of employment and training, seeking among other things, a list of wilful defaulters of bank loans—those who are able to repay but do not—of Rs 50 crore and higher, with or without guarantees. The request also sought the names of guarantors, the details of the sanction, default and accounts associated with non-performing assets, or NPAs.
That month, instead of transferring the application to the relevant agencies such as the RBI or the finance ministry, the central public information officer for the DGEAT replied to Jadoun that the requested information was “not maintained.” Jadoun filed an appeal, but the first appellate authority upheld the CPIO’s assertion. Jadoun then filed a second appeal with the central information commission—per the procedure under the Right to Information Act—that was heard by Acharyulu.