Addressing the media on Saturday, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman clarified the scope of the Central Bureau of Investigation’s role whenever a fraud was reported in the banks. She was speaking after chairing a meeting with the chiefs of the Public Sector Banks, chief executive of Indian Banks’ Association and representatives of leading private sector banks. Conceding that the bank officials were refraining from taking bonafide actions due to fear of CBI harassment, she mentioned that the CBI Director had himself interacted with the bank officials in the meeting to allay their apprehensions.
Sitharaman remarked, “In the recent past, with due justifiable concerns, banks have gone through a slightly worrying period wherein decision making was getting affected because of genuine concern of bank officials worrying about the fear of the 3 Cs- the CBI, the CVC, and the CAG. So, there was a concern that genuine, bonafide decisions are not being made by banks because they are worried, what they would say undue harassment, uncalled for harassment happens because of these agencies pursuing on these cases. So, on that, we had quite a few decisions and quite a few exchanges of engagement with the banks in the presence of the CBI Director. Together with him, two Joint Directors of CBI have also joined us. We have had a very meaningful discussion with the banks.”
The Union Finance Minister stated that the CBI would hold meetings as well as workshops with bank officials in the next few months. Moreover, she emphasised that the CBI could not take suo moto cognizance of any case unless the banks themselves decided to send it there. Sitharaman observed that the banks were being encouraged to take action against errant employees internally.
The Union Finance Minister said, “So, one of the decisions taken in the presence of the CBI Director came as a pleasant point of agreement for the banks also was that in the next few months, the CBI will hold more than a couple of meetings with all the banks, various levels of officers to explain to them what exactly they do after receiving from the banks.”
She added, “No case whatsoever involving the banks goes to the CBI without the banks themselves deciding to send it here. There is no suo moto case that the CBI takes against a bank. Banks have an internal committee that looks at fraudulent practices in certain accounts and they have well-defined protocols for it. If the bank’s internal committee decides, only then does it go for information to the Reserve Bank. Post that, it gets referred to the CBI. And these are for Rs.3 crore and more suspicious fraudulent cases. They should, where possible, take departmental action if somebody else is involved who is from the bank itself.”