‘Transfer Them To Far-Flung Places’: MP HC On Police Officers Tampering With Evidence In Rape Case, Orders Inquiry - Business Guardian
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‘Transfer Them To Far-Flung Places’: MP HC On Police Officers Tampering With Evidence In Rape Case, Orders Inquiry

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While taking a very grim view of the most reprehensible incidents of police officers tampering with evidence even in heinous cases of crime as in rape cases, the Madhya Pradesh High Court in a noteworthy judgment titled Ajay Sahu v. The State Of Madhya Pradesh And Anr. in Criminal Appeal No. 379 of 2022 delivered just recently on April 21, 2022 has directed the State Level Vigilance and Monitoring Committee to take appropriate action against the police officers concerned for tampering with forensic evidence in a rape case, to allegedly shield the appellant/accused who also happened to be a police officer. The single Judge Bench comprising of Justice Vivek Agarwal of Madhya Pradesh High Court at Jabalpur further lamented that the Court would’ve directed that the case be handed over to the CBI for further investigation but the same, prima facie, would not help the victim as the delinquent officers had ‘already played their role’ by tampering with the evidence. We thus see that the Court denied bail to the appellant and the appeal was dismissed.

To start with, this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment authored by a single Judge Bench comprising of Justice Vivek Agarwal first and foremost puts forth in para 1 that, “This appeal is filed by the applicant Ajay Sahu S/o Shri Ramesh Kumar under Section 14(A) of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 1989 as amended upto date.”

Simply put, the Bench then states in para 2 that, “Case Crime No.05/2021 is registered at Police Station A.J.K., District Chhindwara (M.P.) for offence under Section 376(1), 294, 323, 506 of IPC and Section 3(2)(va), 3(1)(w)(i) (ii) of SC/ST, Act 1989. Date of arrest is 13.11.2021.”

Of course, the Bench then points out in para 3 that, “It is submitted that the appellant is innocent, he be enlarged on bail. DNA report is negative, inasmuch as Forensic Science Laboratory has opined that since sample of the fetus was preserved in Formalin Saline, therefore, DNA testing is not possible.”

Briefly stated, the Bench then discloses in para 4 that, “In this regard, I have perused the report dated 20.04.2022 forwarded by Shri Umesh Joga, Additional Director General of Police, Jabalpur, Zone Jabalpur. It is evident from the report that Civil Surgeon of the Hospital Dr. Shikhar Surana had earlier given a casual report saying that sample was preserved in the Formalin at the hospital as it is available in the OT. This opinion has been changed by the Civil Surgeon which clearly points out that Civil Surgeon is guilty of furnishing incorrect information to the High Court. Vide report dated 24.03.2022 forwarded to the D.S.P. Women Safety, Chhindwara vide letter No. /2022/830.”

While mentioning about the Additional Director General of Police, the Bench then reveals in para 6 that, “He has concluded that Staff Nurse Sudha Dhurve admitted that in O.T. Normal and Formalin Saline is available, therefore, there is a possibility that on 13.12.2021 Smt. Radha Boniya (O.T. Technician) might have by fault handed over the container in place of Normal saline filling it with Formalin. After coming into notice of this fact, Hospital Administration is trying to suppress the facts. However, it is evident from the list of persons whose statements were recorded that statement of Sudha Dhurve, Staff Nurse was not recorded. Only statements of 10 persons mentioned above were recorded.”

No doubt, the Bench then concedes in para 7 that, “Dr. Shikhar Surana, Civil Surgeon admitted that for last one and a half year no Formalin was supplied to Prastuti Vibhag.”

As we see, the Bench then states in para 8 that, “Dr. Disha Lamba in her statement stated that Dr. Pathak had directed Sister Kavita to prepare a pack of Normal Saline in which product of Conception (fetus) can be kept. On this instruction, Sister working in Secrolatory had brought a box of Normal Saline in which Dr. Pathak had preserved product of Conception which was handed over to the police authority.”

It also must be mentioned that the Bench then lays bare in para 9 that, “Dr. Shweta Pathak has admitted that Radha Bonia, Staff Nurse was helping Kavita. She has categorically mentioned that she had not paid attention as to whether N.S. was filled in the container by Ms. Kavita or Ms. Radha but container given to her by Ms. Kavita was filled with N.S. because it was not emitting any smell of Formalin. That container was handed over by Dr. Diksha Lamba to the police authority.”

While continuing in a similar vein, the Bench then brings out in para 10 stating that, “Dr. Shobha Moitra has also given similar statements clearly mentioning that Normal Saline in which fetus was preserved was supplied by Store Keeper Manish to the O.T.. For last two years no Formalin has been supplied to the Operation Theater. As per her memory, in last 12 years, no human organ has been preserved in Formalin.”

It must be noted that the Bench then mentions in para 11 that, “Statements of Smt. Kavita Bele are on record in which she has categorically mentioned that Radha Bonia had filled Normal Saline, it was Radhe who had sealed the container.”

It deserves mentioning that the Bench then while mentioning about the statement of Radha Bonia which is important notes in para 13 that, “Reading this statement, it is evident that Ms. Radha Bonia has not admitted that she had filled Formalin in place of Normal Saline. There are no statements of Ms. Sudha Dhurve which Additional Director General of Police has mentioned that she has admitted that in O.T. Normal and Formalin saline are available.”

Needless to say, the Bench then states in para 14 that, “First of all Formalin is not a Saline. Additional Director General of police has not applied himself to the fact situation. It appears that he signed the report and has not taken into consideration the fact that there are no statements of Staff Nurse, Ms. Sudha Dhurve.”

Without mincing any words, the Bench then acknowledges in para 15 that, “Accused appellant is a Police Personnel, thus there is good probability of he being shielded by the higher Police Officials for the reason best known to them.”

Adding more to it, the Bench then also alarmingly points out in para 16 that, “It is prima facie apparent that sample is tampered with and only beneficiary from the tempering of the sample is the present appellant. It also appears that now Police Officers are trying to save him.”

Be it noted, the Bench then enunciates in para 17 that, “Section I5(A) under chapter IVA of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 as amended upto date deals with Rights of Victims and Witnesses. Section 15-A(8) provides as under:-

“(8) Without prejudice to the generality of the provisions of sub-section (6), the concerned Special Court or the Exclusive Special Court may, on an application made by a victim or his dependent, informant or witness in any proceedings before it or by the Special Public Prosecutor in relation to such victim, informant or witness or on its own motion, take such measures including :-

(a) concealing the names and addresses of the witnesses in its orders or judgments or in any records of the case accessible to the public;

(b) issuing directions for non-disclosure of the identity and addresses of the witnesses;

(c) take immediate action in respect of any complaint relating to harassment of a victim, informant or witness and on the same day, if necessary, pass appropriate orders for protection;

Provided that inquiry or investigation into the complaint received under clause (c) shall be tried separately from the main case by such Court and concluded within a period of two months from the date of receipt of the complaint;

Provided further that where the complaint under clause (c) is against any public servant, the Court shall restrain such public servant from interfering with the victim, informant or witness, as the case may be, in any matter related or unrelated to the pending case, except with the permission of the Court.””

Furthermore, the Bench then states in para 18 that, “Rule 16 provides for Constitution of State Level Vigilance and Monitoring Committee. Sub Rule 2 of Rule 16 provides that the high power Vigilance and Monitoring Committee shall meet at least twist in a calendar year in the month of January and July to renew the implementation of the provisions of the Act, Relief and Rehabilitation facilities provided to the victims and other matters connected therewith, prosecution of cases under the Act, Role of different Officers/Agencies responsible for implementing the provision of the Act and various report received by State Government.”

On the face of it, the Bench then states in para 19 that, “Similarly, Rule 17 provides for Constitution of District Level Vigilance and Monitoring Committee.”

Most damningly, the Bench then hastens to add in para 20 that, “In the present matter it appears that none of the Committees be it State Level Vigilance and Monitoring Committee for a District Level Vigilance and Monitoring Committee have taken pains to do the needful as is provided in Rule 16(2), Rule 17 and Section 15-A(8) of the Act.”

Truth be told, the Bench then concedes in para 21 that, “Appellant should have been transferred out of the local area to a far flung area so that he is not able to influence the witnesses.”

Most significantly, what forms the cornerstone of this notable judgment is then encapsulated in para 22 wherein it is held that, “This Court would have handed over this case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in view of the conduct of the Police Personnel which includes the appellant, Superintendent of Police, Chhindwara, and Additional Director General of Police, Jabalpur but at this distance of time when Civil Surgeon of District Hospital, Chhindwara and concerned Police Personnel have already played their role, and it is not possible to retry the sample, therefore, any indulgence of the CBI prima facie does not appears to be of immediate help in protecting the rights of the victim. Therefore, instead of handing over the investigation to the CBI, it is directed that concerned Officials be transferred specially the appellant to a far flung place in Madhya Pradesh so that he is not able to influence the witnesses as now case is to be decided on its own merits in view of the available ocular evidence.”

No less significant is what is then stated by the Bench in para 23 wherein it is held that, “As far as, merits of the present appeal is concerned, it is evident that forensic evidence has already been tempered with and now case is dependent on the ocular evidence, therefore, for the present when the appellant appears to be wielding sufficient influence on various authorities who are suppose to be independent, probability of tempering with the evidence cannot be ruled out thus unless important prosecution witnesses are examined it cannot be said that the appellant is entitled to be enlarged on bail.”

As a corollary, the Bench then holds in para 24 that, “Application fails and is dismissed.”

Finally, the Bench then concludes by directing in para 25 that, “Let a copy of this order be forwarded by the Registry along with reports dated 01.04.2022 and 20.04.2022 to the State Level Vigilance and Monitoring Committee through the Chief Secretary for taking appropriate action against the delinquent persons within 15 days from today. Let record be kept in a sealed cover.”

In conclusion, the Madhya Pradesh High Court has taken a very strong exception to police officers tampering with evidence in rape case to help the accused police officer to get himself exonerated from the court. This is nothing but trampling upon justice and due process of law. How can this sabotaging be allowed? This no court can ever afford to allow at any cost and under any circumstances. No denying it!

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Policy&Politics

Govt extends date for submission of R&D proposals

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The Government has extended the deadline for submission of proposals related to R&D scheme under the National Green Hydrogen Mission. The R&D scheme seeks to make the production, storage, transportation and utilisation of green hydrogen more affordable. It also aims to improve the efficiency, safety and reliability of the relevant processes and technologies involved in the green hydrogen value chain. Subsequent to the issue of the guidelines, the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy issued a call for proposals on 16 March, 2024.

While the Call for Proposals is receiving encouraging response, some stakeholders have requested more time for submission of R&D proposals. In view of such requests and to allow sufficient time to the institutions for submitting good-quality proposals, the Ministry has extended the deadline for submission of proposals to 27th April, 2024.

The scheme also aims to foster partnerships among industry, academia and government in order to establish an innovation ecosystem for green hydrogen technologies. The scheme will also help the scaling up and commercialisation of green hydrogen technologies by providing the necessary policy and regulatory support.

The R&D scheme will be implemented with a total budgetary outlay of Rs 400 crore till the financial year 2025-26. The support under the R&D programme includes all components of the green hydrogen value chain, namely, production, storage, compression, transportation, and utilisation.

The R&D projects supported under the mission will be goal-oriented, time bound, and suitable to be scaled up. In addition to industrial and institutional research, innovative MSMEs and start-ups working on indigenous technology development will also be encouraged under the Scheme.

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Policy&Politics

India, Brazil, South Africa to press for labour & social issues, sustainability

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The Indian delegation also comprises Rupesh Kumar Thakur, Joint Secretary, and Rakesh Gaur, Deputy Director from the Ministry of Labour & Employment.

India, on Thursday, joined the G20’s two-day 2nd Employment Working Group (EWG) meeting under the Brazilian Presidency which is all set to address labour, employment and social issues for strong, sustainable, balanced and job-rich growth for all. India is co-chairing the 2nd EWG meeting, along with Brazil and South Africa, and is represented by Sumita Dawra, Secretary, Labour & Employment.

The Indian delegation also comprises Rupesh Kumar Thakur, Joint Secretary, and Rakesh Gaur, Deputy Director from the Ministry of Labour & Employment. India has pointed out that the priority areas of the 2nd EWG at Brasilia align with the priority areas and outcomes of previous G20 presidencies including Indian presidency, and commended the continuity in the multi-year agenda to create lasting positive change in the world of work. This not only sustains but also elevates the work initiated by the EWG during the Indian Presidency.

The focus areas for the 2nd EWG meeting are — creating quality employment and promoting decent labour, addressing a just transition amidst digital and energy transformations, leveraging technologies to enhance the quality of life for al and the emphasis on gender equity and promoting diversity in the world of employment for inclusivity, driving innovation and growth. On the first day of the meeting, deliberations were held on the over-arching theme of promotion of gender equality and promoting diversity in the workplace.

The Indian delegation emphasized the need for creating inclusive environments by ensuring equal representation and empowerment for all, irrespective of race, gender, ethnicity, or socio-economic background. To increase female labour force participation, India has enacted occupational safety health and working conditions code, 2020 which entitles women to be employed in all establishments for all types of work with their consent at night time. This provision has already been implemented in underground mines.

In 2017, the Government amended the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961, which increased the ‘maternity leave with pay protection’ from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for all women working in establishments employing 10 or more workers. This is expected to reduce the motherhood pay gap among the working mothers. To aid migrant workers, India’s innovative policy ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ allows migrants to access their entitled food grains from anywhere in the Public Distribution System network in the country.

A landmark step in fostering inclusion in the workforce is the e-Shram portal, launched to create a national database of unorganized workers, especially migrant and construction workers. This initiative, providing the e-Shram card, enables access to benefits under various social security schemes.

The portal allows an unorganized worker to register himself or herself on the portal on self-declaration basis, under 400 occupations in 30 broad occupation sectors. More than 290 million unorganized workers have been registered on this portal so far.

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Policy&Politics

India to spend USD 3.7 billion to fence Myanmar border

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India plans to spend nearly $3.7 billion to fence its 1,610-km (1,000-mile) porous border with Myanmar within about a decade, said a source with direct knowledge of the matter, to prevent smuggling and other illegal activities. New Delhi said earlier this year it would fence the border and end a decades-old visa-free movement policy with coup-hit Myanmar for border citizens for reasons of national security and to maintain the demographic structure of its northeastern region.

A government committee earlier this month approved the cost for the fencing, which needs to be approved by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet, said the source who declined to be named as they were not authorised to talk to the media. The prime minister’s office and the ministries of home, finance, foreign affairs and information and broadcasting did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Myanmar has so far not commented on India’s fencing plans. Since a military coup in Myanmar in 2021, thousands of civilians and hundreds of troops have fled from there to Indian states where people on both sides share ethnic and familial ties. This has worried New Delhi because of risk of communal tensions spreading to India. Some members of the Indian government have also blamed the porous border for abetting the tense situation in the restive north-eastern Indian state of Manipur, abutting Myanmar.

For nearly a year, Manipur has been engulfed by a civil war-like situation between two ethnic groups, one of which shares lineage with Myanmar’s Chin tribe. The committee of senior Indian officials also agreed to build parallel roads along the fence and 1,700 km (1,050 miles) of feeder roads connecting military bases to the border, the source said.

The fence and the adjoining road will cost nearly 125 million rupees per km, more than double that of the 55 million per km cost for the border fence with Bangladesh built in 2020, the source said, because of the difficult hilly terrain and the use of technology to prevent intrusion and corrosion.

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Policy&Politics

ONLY 2-3% RECOVERED FROM $2-3 TN ANNUAL ILLEGAL TRADE THROUGH BANKING: INTERPOL

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However, Stock highlighted the enormity of the challenge, noting that between 40% and 70% of criminal profits are reinvested, perpetuating the cycle of illicit financial activity.

In a press briefing held on Wednesday, Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock unveiled alarming statistics regarding the extent of undetected money laundering and illegal trade transactions plaguing the global banking network. Stock revealed that over 96% of the money transacted through this network remains undetected, with only 2-3% of the estimated USD 2-3 trillion from illegal trade being tracked and returned to victims.

Interpol, working in conjunction with law enforcement agencies and private financial sectors across its 196 member countries, is committed to combating the rising tide of fraud perpetrated by illicit traders. These criminal activities encompass a wide spectrum, including drug trafficking, human trafficking, arms dealing, and the illicit movement of financial assets.

Stock emphasized the urgent need to establish mechanisms for monitoring transactions within the global banking network. Currently, efforts are underway to engage banking associations worldwide in setting up such a framework. However, Stock highlighted the enormity of the challenge, noting that between 40% and 70% of criminal profits are reinvested, perpetuating the cycle of illicit financial activity. The lack of real-time information sharing poses a significant obstacle to law enforcement agencies in their efforts to combat money laundering and illegal trade.

Stock underscored the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in exacerbating this problem, citing its use in voice cloning and other fraudulent activities. Criminal organizations are leveraging AI technologies to expand their operations and evade detection on a global scale. Stock emphasized the importance of enhanced cooperation between law enforcement agencies and private sector banking groups. Realtime information sharing is crucial in the fight against illegal wealth accumulation.

Drawing inspiration from initiatives such as the “Singapore Anti-Scam Centre,” Stock called for the adoption of similar models in other countries to strengthen the collective response to financial crimes. In conclusion, Stock’s revelations underscore the pressing need for concerted action to combat global financial crimes. Enhanced cooperation between public and private sectors, coupled with innovative strategies for monitoring and combating illicit transactions, is essential to safeguarding the integrity of the global financial system.

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Policy&Politics

FM defends Atal Pension Scheme, highlights guaranteed returns

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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman defended the Atal Pension Yojana (APY) against Congress criticism, asserting its design based on choice architecture and a guaranteed minimum 8% return. She emphasized the scheme’s opt-out feature, facilitating automatic premium continuation unless subscribers choose otherwise, promoting retirement savings. Sitharaman countered Congress allegations of coercion, stating the APY’s guaranteed returns irrespective of market conditions, supplemented by government subsidies.

Responding to Congress’s claim of scheme misuse, Sitharaman highlighted its intended beneficiaries – the lower-income groups. She criticized Congress for its alleged elitist mindset and emphasized the scheme’s success in targeting the needy. Sitharaman accused Congress of exploiting vote bank politics and coercive tactics, contrasting it with the APY’s transparent framework. The exchange underscores the political debate surrounding social welfare schemes, with the government defending its approach while opposition parties raise concerns about implementation and efficacy.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s robust defense of the Atal Pension Yojana (APY) against Congress criticism highlights the ongoing debate over social welfare schemes in India. Sitharaman’s assertion of the APY’s design principles, including its opt-out feature and guaranteed minimum return, underscores the government’s commitment to promoting retirement savings among lower-income groups. The Atal Pension Yojana, named after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was launched in 2015 to provide pension benefits to workers in the unorganized sector. It aims to address the significant gap in pension coverage among India’s workforce, particularly those employed in informal and low-income sectors. The scheme offers subscribers fixed pension amounts ranging from Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 5,000 per month, depending on their contribution and age at entry, after attaining the age of 60. Sitharaman’s response comes after Congress criticism alleging the APY’s inefficacy and coercive tactics in enrolment.

Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh described the scheme as poorly designed, citing instances of subscribers dropping out due to unauthorized account openings. However, Sitharaman refuted these claims, emphasizing the APY’s transparent and beneficiary-oriented approach. The finance minister’s defense focuses on three key aspects of the APY: Choice Architecture: Sitharaman highlights the opt-out feature of the APY, which automatically continues premium payments unless subscribers choose to discontinue.

This design element aims to encourage long-term participation and ensure consistent retirement savings among subscribers. By simplifying the decision-making process, the scheme seeks to overcome inertia and promote financial discipline among participants. Guaranteed Minimum Return: Sitharaman underscores the APY’s guarantee of a minimum 8% return, irrespective of prevailing interest rates. This assurance provides subscribers with confidence in the scheme’s financial viability and incentivizes long-term savings.

The government’s commitment to subsidizing any shortfall in actual returns further strengthens the attractiveness of the APY as a retirement planning tool. Targeting the Needy: Sitharaman defends the predominance of pension accounts in lower income slabs, arguing that it reflects the scheme’s successful targeting of its intended beneficiaries – the poor and lower-middle class. She criticizes Congress for its alleged elitist mindset and suggests that the party’s opposition to welfare schemes like the APY stems from a disconnect with the needs of marginalized communities. Sitharaman’s rebuttal also addresses broader political narratives surrounding social welfare policies in India.

She accuses Congress of exploiting vote bank politics and coercive tactics, contrasting it with the transparent and inclusive framework of the APY. The exchange underscores the ideological differences between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress, with each side advocating for their vision of social welfare and economic development. In addition to defending the APY, Sitharaman’s remarks shed light on the broader challenges and opportunities facing India’s pension sector.

Despite significant progress in expanding pension coverage through schemes like the APY, the country still grapples with issues such as financial literacy, informal employment, and pension portability. Addressing these challenges requires a multifaceted approach involving government intervention, private sector participation, and civil society engagement.

As India strives to achieve its vision of inclusive and sustainable development, initiatives like the APY play a crucial role in promoting economic security and social equity. Sitharaman’s defense of the scheme underscores the government’s commitment to addressing the needs of vulnerable populations and ensuring their financial well-being in the long run.

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Economic

Regulatory steps will make financial sector strong, but raise cost of capital

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India’s financial system regulator, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), is demonstrating a serious commitment to improving governance and transparency at finance companies and banks, with the RBI’s recent measures aimed at curtailing lenders’ overexuberance, enhancing compliance culture and safeguarding customers.

While the global ratings firm has appreciated the RBI’s “diminishing tolerance for non-compliance, customer complaints, data privacy, governance, know-your-customer (KYC), and anti-money laundering issues”, it has cautioned that increased regulatory risk could impede growth and raise the cost of capital for financial institutions. “Governance and transparency are key weaknesses for the Indian financial sector and weigh on our analysis. The RBI’s new measures are creating a more robust and transparent financial system,” says S&P Global Credit Analyst, Geeta Chugh. “India’s regulator has underscored its commitment to strengthening the financial sector. The drawback will be higher capital costs for institutions,” Chugh cautions.

The RBI measures include restraining IIFL Finance and JM Financial Products from disbursing gold loan and loans against shares respectively and asking Paytm Payments Bank (PPBL) to stop onboarding of new customers. Earlier in December 2020, the RBI suspended HDFC Bank from sourcing new credit card customers after repeated technological outages. These actions are a departure from the historically nominal financial penalties imposed for breaches, S&P Global notes.

Besides, as the global agency points out, the RBI has decided to publicly disclose the key issues that lead to suspensions or other strict actions against concerned entities and become more vocal in calling out conduct that it deems detrimental to the interests of customers and investors. “We believe that increased transparency will create additional pressure on the entire financial sector to enhance compliance and governance practices,” adds Chugh. The global agency has also lauded the RBI’s recent actions demonstrating scant tolerance for any potential window-dressing of accounts.

These actions include the provisioning requirement on alternative investment funds that lend to the same borrower as the bank finance company. Amidst the possibility of some retail loans, such as personal loans, loans against property, and gold loans getting diverted to invest in stock markets and difficulty of ascertaining the end-use of money in these products, S&P Global underlines the faith of market participants that the RBI and market regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India, want to protect small investors by scrutinizing these activities more cautiously.

On the flip side, at a time of tight liquidity, the RBI’s new measures are likely to limit credit growth in fiscal 2025 (year ending March 2025). “We expect loan growth to decline to 14 per cent in fiscal 2025 from 16 per cent in fiscal 2024, reflecting the cumulative impact of all these actions,” says Chugh. The other side of the story is that stricter rules may disrupt affected entities and increase caution among fintechs and other regulated entities and the RBI’s decision to raise risk weights on unsecured personal loans and credit cards may constrain growth. Household debt to GDP in India (excluding agriculture and small and midsize enterprises) increased to an estimated 24 per cent in March 2024 from 19 per cent in March 2019. Growth in unsecured loans has also been excessive and now forms close to 10 per cent of total banking sector loans.

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