RBI autonomy is ‘essential, accepted governance requirement’: Finance Ministry

RBI vs Government: Urjit Patel may resign as governor after Centre invokes never-used powers

Reserve Bank of India Governor Urjit Patel may consider resigning from his post given a breakdown in relations with the government, TV channels reported on Wednesday, sparking a sell-off in the rupee and bonds. RBI Deputy Governor Viral Acharya had on Friday warned that undermining a central bank's independence was "potentially catastrophic".

Following the public rift, the government has reportedly invoked Section 7 of the RBI Act, which has never been used in independent India. Economic Affairs Secretary Subhash Chandra Garg declined to comment, while Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia said it was for the Department of Economic Affairs to clarify on Section 7 of the law.

"The political dysfunction is yet further excuse for foreigners to head for the hills, sustaining pressure on INR", said Sue Trinh, head of Asia foreign-exchange strategy at Royal Bank of Canada in Hong Kong. A statement from the government clarifying on the issue clearly acknowledges the need for RBI autonomy within the framework of RBI Act, by calling it is essential and accepted in an economy. "We appeal to all right-minded people and experts to speak out and persuade the government to amend, and let RBI do its job in an unfettered way as per statutes, mandates, practices", the letter said.

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On Tuesday, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the central bank had "looked the other way" when banks were lending "indiscriminately" between 2008 and 2014.

Government officials have also called for relaxation of strict RBI lending rules for weak banks and are trying to trim the RBI's regulatory powers by setting up a new payment regulator.

BJP slammed Rahul Gandhi for his criticism against Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the RBI-Centre rift, and said that it reflects Congress party's grounding, "which is fast eroding in national politics". India is gaining global recognition as a leader in payment systems. Essentially, they want to ease non-performing asset norms and relax lending norms for MSME companies. Second letter was on using RBI's capital reserves and the third letter was on relaxing constraints on PCA banks for loans to SMEs. For instance, a senior government official maintained that the provision only relates to the management of the central bank and the central government may not be empowered to issue directions to the RBI on policy-related matters. "Regulators have a very important function. And that's why, when several regulators publish their approach papers or tentative drafts, they hold hearings, meet individuals, meet groups of stakeholders together and improve upon what is being said".

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