Election Commission of India roped into new bank licences case by Raghuram Rajan

Written by PTI | Mumbai | Updated: Mar 7 2014, 21:17pm hrs
Raghuram RajanRBI Governor Raghuram Rajan said the central bank would seek formal approval from Election Commission before issuing the news bank licences.
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will issue new bank licences in a few weeks, after seeking approval of the Election Commission of India (RBI), Governor Raghuram Rajan said today.

Over two dozen public and private sector applicants, including India Post, IFCI and large business houses such as the Anil Ambani group and the Aditya Birla group, have applied for bank licences.

The RBI is expected to issue only a few bank licences after completing due diligence.

"My sense is, if all goes well we should be able to do it in a few weeks," RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan told reporters after Finance Minister P. Chidambaram addressed the central bank's board meeting.

Rajan, however, added that the RBI would seek formal approval from the Election Commission before issuing the licences as the model of code conduct is in force.

"Look, we have to (seek) the formal approval from the EC that announcing the bank licences will be okay. A number of people have said it will, but it would be best that the process is formally approved by the EC," he said, adding that the process was started last year and was not a new proposal.

Replying to questions on bank licences, Chidambaram said he had made no recommendations to the RBI, which had appointed the Bimal Jalan Committee to scrutinise the applications.

"The Jalan Committee report is before the RBI. I have not seen the Jalan Committee report. The RBI will take appropriate decisions. If at some stage the Governor wishes to share its content with me, then I would be very happy to listen. But I don't intend to speak," the Finance Minister added.

Rajan said an RBI panel is looking into the Jalan Committee's report.

"Once we (complete) due diligence, we will pass the report to the Committee of the Board. After that, the decision on bank licences will be taken," he added.

Last month, the Jalan panel submitted its report, along with shortlisted entities, to the Reserve Bank of India.

Guidelines for setting up new banks were issued in February 2013 and the last day for applications was July 1.

The RBI received 27 applications and subsequently, Tata Sons Ltd and Value Industries Ltd withdrew.