The appointment of Dilip Asbe as the CEO and MD of National Payments Corporation of India is said to have been questioned by three independent directors on the NPCI board. These independent directors were seen to have been backing a different person.
Reportedly, the three independent directors have argued that the NPCI board has the final authority to select the official for the top executive post of the corporation. This flies in the face of the fact since Asbe’s selection was approved by the full board.
According to leaked documents, in October 2017, NPCI board voted decisively to appoint Visa’s Uttam Nayak as CEO and MD. When the decision was conveyed to the RBI in a letter that asked for approval from a ‘fit and proper’ perspective, the RBI sent a letter in December 2017 directing the payments body to appoint Dilip Asbe instead who was also among the shortlisted candidates.
Since the NPCI board sought the approval for its selection from the RBI, it stands to reason that the RBI is the final arbiter on the issue. And hence the controversy sought to have been created is seen as deliberate and mischievous and seen as questioning the RBI’s competence to judge a person ‘fit and proper’.
It is pointed out that Asbe is an NPCI insider and worked diligently and enthusiastically to promote the government’s agenda of ‘Digital India’ and Aadhaar-based tech innovations and has thus come to earn the confidence of both the RBI and the prime minister’s office (PMO). It is also clarified that Asbe had officiated as acting CEO of NPCL following the retirement of A P Hota in August 2017 and was also a shortlisted candidate for the CEO’s post.
Further, at NPCI’s January 8, 2018, board meeting, a resolution was adopted to appoint Asbe as the CEO of NPCL in tune with the RBI’s direction. In a letter to the NPCL board on December 29, 2017, RBI’s executive director S Ganesh Kumar informed NPCL that “Shri Dilip Asbe, current CEO-in-charge, has been found fit and proper to be appointed as MD and CEO of NPCI” and directed the board to “take immediate action accordingly and confirm the same to RBI”.
The strange thing is that after the NPCL board had approved the appointment of Asbe as the CEO on January 8, three independent directors who sit on the NPCI board – Santanu Paul, Satish Pradhan, and Rama Bijapurkar – wrote their dissent notes criticising the RBI. What they were doing during the board meeting that approved the appointment of Asbe is the question being thrown at these three independent directors.
For some unknown or known reasons, questions have also been raised regarding the appointment of Biswamohan Mahapatra as director and chairman of the payments body.