Govt vs RBI: Row around Section 7 unfortunate, says ex-RBI Deputy Governor

Reserve Bank of India | File Photo

Amid the debate surrounding Reserve Bank's autonomy and the government's alleged intervention in its functioning, former RBI Deputy Governor R Gandhi believes it is just difference of opinion.

He also termed the entire discussions around invoking Section 7 of the RBI Act as unfortunate.

In an interview to PTI's Hindi service Bhasha, Gandhi, who was the Deputy Governor of the central bank between 2014 and 2017, said there is nothing new in such a debate.

Section 7 of the RBI Act gives special powers to the government to issue directions to the Reserve Bank governor on issues of public interest.

The former deputy governor said: "Such a situation will not arise if the government and RBI engage in talks at regular intervals. The ongoing debate is an indication that there have been some problems in this process. If there are talks, all issues will be resolved".

Regarding transfer of surplus reserves to the exchequer, Gandhi observed that the central bank, after completing its annual audit, gives due share to the government.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has massive Rs 9.59 lakh crore reserves and the government, if reports are to be believed, wants the central bank to part with a third of that fund -- an issue which along with easing of norms for weak banks and raising liquidity has brought the two at loggerheads in recent weeks.

"Governments look at many issues with a short-sighted vision whereas the RBI has to take into account the mid and long term picture. Therefore, disagreements may arise on an issue due to the difference of viewpoints or according priority to a particular sector. Difference of opinion is a sign of healthy environment. Decision on contentious issues are always good, if taken after intense debate and discussions.

"Having different points of view is a sign of a healthy situation. Decisions taken after debate and discussion are generally good. Therefore, I do not consider the ongoing debate as wrong," Gandhi said.

He further said that four years earlier, then RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan had suggested that a formula or model should form the basis for fund transfer to the government. But at that time, the Centre was not prepared to accept it.

Gandhi said that today the government is demanding the same.

"I feel the RBI will also agree to this (formula for capital framework with RBI). However, there should be discussion on the elements and principles of the proposed formula. Once it is framed, the RBI will abide by it," he added.

Asked about RBI relaxing norms for the banking system, Gandhi said this does not mean that whatever the government demands should be accepted. The RBI has to consider views of all stake-holders and take a decision for the overall well being of the economy.

He also said it is not necessary that all issues will be resolved in the RBI's board meeting on November 19. Some issues may be taken up at a later date for amicable solution.

Besides, Gandhi said the recent depreciation in the value of the rupee was not a cause of worry, and India's economy rests on sound fundamentals.


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