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advtanmoy
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Status of the RBI

Vivek Narayan Sharma Vs. Union of India

[Writ Petition (Civil) No. 906 of 2016]

194. Having adverted to the various judgments on the issue of delegated legislation, we find it necessary to refer to certain judgments of this Court outlining the status of the RBI.

195. The Constitution Bench of this Court in the case of Joseph Kuruvilla Velukunnel (supra) was considering a challenge to Section 38(1) and (3)(b)(iii) of the Banking Companies Act, 1949 being violative of Articles 14, 19 and 301 of the Constitution of India, and was, therefore, ultra vires the Constitution of India. Though this Court held that Section 38 is an unreasonable restriction on the right of the Palai Bank to carry on its business and, therefore, unconstitutional, it will be relevant to refer to paragraph 46 of the said judgment, which is as follows:

“46. In the present case, in view of the history of the establishment of the Reserve Bank as a central bank for India, its position as a Bankers’ Bank, its control over banking companies and banking in India, its position as the issuing bank, its power to license banking companies and cancel their licences and the numerous other powers, it is unanswerable that between the court and the Reserve Bank, the momentous decision to wind up a tottering or unsafe banking company in the interests of the depositors, may reasonably be left to the Reserve Bank.

No doubt, the court can also, given the time, perform this task. But the decision has to be taken without delay, and the Reserve Bank already knows intimately the affairs of banking companies and has had access to their books and accounts. If the court were called upon to take immediate action, it would almost always be guided by the opinion of the Reserve Bank. It would be impossible for the court to reach a conclusion unguided by the Reserve Bank if immediate action was demanded. But the law which gives the same position to the opinion of the Reserve Bank is challenged as unreasonable. In our opinion, such a challenge has no force.”

[emphasis supplied]

196. The Court has referred to the pivotal role that the RBI plays as a Central Bank, as a bankers’ bank and numerous other powers that it exercises. The Court held that the law which gives an important position to the opinion of the Reserve Bank was challenged unreasonably and such challenge had no force.

197. It may also be relevant to refer to the following observations of this Court in the case of Peerless General Finance and Investment Co. Limited and another (supra):

“30. Before examining the scope and effect of the impugned paragraphs (6) and (12) of the directions of 1987, it is also important to note that Reserve Bank of India which is bankers’ bank is a creature of statute. It has large contingent of expert advice relating to matters affecting the economy of the entire country and nobody can doubt the bona fides of the Reserve Bank in issuing the impugned directions of 1987. The Reserve Bank plays an important role in the economy and financial affairs of India and one of its important functions is to regulate the banking system in the country. It is the duty of the Reserve Bank to safeguard the economy and financial stability of the country.”

[emphasis supplied]

198. It can thus be seen that this Court has noted that the RBI, which is a bankers’ bank, is a creature of statute. It has large contingent of expert advice relating to matters affecting the economy of the entire country. It has been held that the RBI plays an important role in the economy and financial affairs of India and one of its important functions is to regulate the banking system in the country. It has been held that it is the duty of the RBI to safeguard the economy and financial stability of the country.

199. It will also further be relevant to refer to the following observations of this Court in the case of Peerless General Finance and Investment Co. Limited and another (supra):

“The function of the Court is not to advise in matters relating to financial and economic policies for which bodies like Reserve Bank are fully competent. The Court can only strike down some or entire directions issued by the Reserve Bank in case the Court is satisfied that the directions were wholly unreasonable or violative of any provisions of the Constitution or any statute. It would be hazardous and risky for the courts to tread an unknown path and should leave such task to the expert bodies. This Court has repeatedly said that matters of economic policy ought to be left to the government.”

[emphasis supplied]

200. The Court has held that it is not permissible for a Court to advise in matters relating to financial and economic policies for which bodies like Reserve Bank are fully competent. It has been held that it would be risky and hazardous for the courts to tread an unknown path and should leave such task to the expert bodies.

201. Recently a three-Judge Bench of this Court, speaking through one of us (V. Ramasubramanian, J.), in the case of Internet and Mobile Association of India (supra) observed thus:

“141. But as pointed out elsewhere, RBI is the sole repository of power for the management of the currency, under Section 3 of the RBI Act. RBI is also vested with the sole right to issue bank notes under Section 22(1) and to issue currency notes supplied to it by the Government of India and has an important role to play in evolving the monetary policy of the country, by participation in the Monetary Policy Committee which is empowered to determine the policy rate required to achieve the inflation target, in terms of the consumer price index.

Therefore, anything that may pose a threat to or have an impact on the financial system of the country, can be regulated or prohibited by RBI, despite the said activity not forming part of the credit system or payment system. The expression “management of the currency” appearing in Section 3(1) need not necessarily be confined to the management of what is recognised in law to be currency but would also include what is capable of faking or playing the role of a currency.”

[emphasis supplied]

202. It can thus be seen that this Court has held that the RBI is the sole repository of power for the management of currency. It is also vested with the sole right to issue bank notes and to issue currency notes supplied to it by the Government of India. It has been held that the RBI has an important role to play in evolving the monetary policy of the country.