The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has barred its officers attending meetings, official or unofficial, from interacting with the press as part of efforts to deter leaks, and directed them to 'confine' to the official position on the issues they publicly speak on.
India’s banking regulator prohibited its officers from interacting with the media under any circumstances, showed an internal circular that Moneycontrol reviewed. “It is (therefore) advised that such officers attending the meetings may be necessarily advised by the HoDs/RDs to strictly confine to the policy position of the Bank as stated in various circulars issued and under no circumstances interact with the press,” said the circular issued on February 2.
This is perhaps the first time that the central bank has issued a formal circular warning its officers against interacting with the press, said a person familiar with the development. The idea could be to avoid confusing reports in the public, the person said, asking not to be named.
RBI’s senior officers typically attend various meetings at regional levels. These are formal and informal gatherings. The central bank is concerned that the opinions expressed by officials in such meetings are deemed by the public as RBI’s official opinion.
The trigger for the circular happens to be a news report concerning an RBI plan to withdraw old currency notes. The RBI refuted the report that said it was planning to withdraw old notes of Rs 100, Rs 10 and Rs 5 denominations.
Referring to that report, the circular said: “With regard to the reports in certain sections of media on withdrawal of old series of Rs100, Rs 10 and Rs 5 banknotes from circulation in near future, it is clarified that such reports are incorrect,” the RBI tweeted on January 25.
With regard to reports in certain sections of media on withdrawal of old series of ₹100, ₹10 & ₹5 banknotes from circulation in near future, it is clarified that such reports are incorrect.
— ReserveBankOfIndia (@RBI) January 25, 2021
The RBI introduced Rs 2,000 currency notes in the aftermath of the November 2016 demonetisation exercise that invalidated Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes almost overnight.
These notes amounted to 86 percent of the currency in circulation at that point. On January 25, 2021, the RBI clarified that the reports of currency withdrawals were false as part of efforts to allay fears of a demonetisation-like exercise.
RBI also asked regional offices of the bank to “sensitise” employees about this policy. “It is necessary that during the deliberations of the meetings at the district level/state level, views expressed should be on the lines of the explicitly stated objectives of the Bank and strictly in conformity with the extant instruction/guidelines,” said the circular issued on February 2.
Code of Conduct
The circular asked the regional offices to “sensitise” all their staff who attend such meetings “to be extremely discreet while attending official/unofficial meetings at any level”.
The circular was issued by a Deputy General Manager ranked officer of the RBI and is addressed to Regional Director/ Chief General Manager, Officer-in-Charge of all zones.