The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) has recommended to Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to issue new banking licences only to Indian owned and Nationally incorporated banks so as to ensure that Financial Inclusion (FI) of aam aadmi with banking system is achieved as desired by government for inclusive growth and employment. According to ASSOCHAM, the proposal for issuance of new bank licences as mooted in the Finance Act, 2010-11 is timely and can well serve development objectives of government provided RBI considers the recommended suggestions since Indian owned and Indian incorporated banks would have potential to broadbase its banking network and also become a force to reckon with.
The chamber has advocated the need for giving new licences based on realistic approach and processes so that efficiency and stability of banking system is sustained by inducting more competition.
In a statement, the ASSOCHAM spokesman emphasized that experience has shown that promises made by licensee at the time of issuance of licence and subsequent compliance are often at variance and RBI has little authority to take corrective action, especially in a de-regulated environment.
Further, it has been observed that there have been instances where full and reliable information on the fit and proper ownership of promoters was not brought to the notice of RBI before issuance of licence. Therefore, putting in public domain every application and its accompanying information at every stage would avoid such misleading representations.
The guidance of ownership and governance issued in 2004 have helped in improving consolidation and strengthening of private sector banking. Hence, issue of new licences could ideally be considered broadly as per guidelines already in position.
The ASSOCHAM has further cautioned that legal aspects, both in letter and spirit should not be ignored. As per current legislation governing banks, voting rights are restricted to 10 per cent, whatever be the extent of actual ownership. When the RBI stipulates a higher percentage for a promoter’s ownership, an artificial slicing of ownership often becomes an operational necessity, and RBI becomes a willing party tot artificial slicing, this in a way undermining intent of law.
The amendments to existing Act also envisage strengthening the regulatory authority of RBI consistent with global best practices. In view of recent global experience with banking industry and India’s own experience, ideally, the proposed amendments to law could be carried out first and the new bank licences issued thereafter to reduce uncertainties to all concerned.