The Corporate Debt Restructuring (CDR) Cell, a body which came to existence on a Reserve Bank of India circular, has restructured debt of Rs 3.7 lakh crore for 505 corporates since 2008.

Despite 38 of its members being public sector banks (PSBs) and 13 of 19 employees drawing salary from PSBs, the functioning of the CDR is shrouded in secrecy as it has claimed of being outside the ambit of Right to Information (RTI).

Former information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi is now challenging this diktat before Central Information Commission (CIC). Gandhi had tried to seek some information which would have thrown light on how much loss PSBs are incurring and how debts are being restructured by the CDR.

However, the CDR Cell stonewalled Gandhi's attempt to bring in transparency in the tightly closeted group. In reply to Gandhi's RTI query, deputy general manager of CDR Cell Prakash said, "CDR is a self-empowered body which provides broad guidelines to be followed by itself, and the administrative, operating and other costs of CDR is shared by all financial institutions and banks. CDR is neither owned, controlled or substantially funded by the government. Hence, CDR is not a public authority."

Four members of the core group are chairmen of PSBs, which fall under the ambit of RTI. "They do not disagree with my contention that PSBs are public authorities. However, they beg to differ that when public servants getting paid by the government come together to decide on the fate of lakhs of crore of public money, they are not public authority. This argument is entirely flawed," said Gandhi. How much is Rs 3.7 lakh crore? It is 31 per cent of the total revenue estimates for 2014-15.

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