The quantum of new currency notes of Rs 2,000 and Rs 500 printed before the announcement of demonetisation on November 8 cannot be disclosed as it may affect interests of the State, a subsidiary of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) responsible for printing currency, has said.
The response of the subsidiary came following an RTI query sent to RBI under the Right to Information Act seeking to know the preparedness of the Bankers' Bank to handle the cash crisis arising out of sudden announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to demonetise Rs 1,000 and Rs 500.
The central bank forwarded the query to Bhartiya Reserve Bank Note (P) Limited, Bengaluru which is wholly owned subsidiary of RBI to respond to query "how much currency of new Rs 2,000 and Rs 500 was printed before announcement of cessation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 as legal tender was made on November 8".
The subsidiary was established 21 years ago with an aim to augment currency printing capacity of RBI "to bridge the gap between the supply and demand for bank notes in the country" with present capacity for its presses of 16 billion note pieces per year on a two-shift basis, as per web site of BRBNL.
In its response to RTI query, BRBNL said the information cannot be disclosed citing section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act. The section allows declining 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.
The Press did not give any reasons to justify as to how giving plain data about currency printed by it before November 8 would qualify in any of the categories given under Section 8(1)(a) to deny the information.
Ironically, the RBI in a separate response had said that it had 2,473 million pieces of 2,000 rupee notes on November 8 which had a value of over Rs 4.94 lakh crore. The RBI has not been fothcoming with information about currency situation in the country and its preparedness in the wake of demonetisation citing one exemption or the other. The monetary policy regulator had refused to give reasons, sought under the RTI Act, behind the drastic decision announced by the Prime Minister to demonetise about 86 per cent of currency in circulation.
It had adopted silence on whether the views of Chief Economic Advisor and Finance Minister were taken before demonetisation was announced.
The monetary policy regulator also refused to give any details about the time it will take to replenish the currency notes. The query is in the nature of seeking future date of an event which is not defined as information as per Section 2(f) of the RTI Act, RBI had said in response to an RTI query.