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Reserve Bank of India proposes opening of “Islamic window” in banks

The Reserve Bank of India has proposed opening of “Islamic window” in conventional banks for “gradual” introduction of Sharia-compliant or interest-free banking in the country.

Both the Centre and RBI are exploring the possibility of introduction of Islamic banking for long to ensure financial inclusion of those sections of the society that remain excluded due to religious reasons.

“In our considered opinion, given the complexities of Islamic finance and various regulatory and supervisory challenges involved in the matter and also due to the fact that Indian banks have no experience in this field, Islamic banking may be introduced in India in a gradual manner.

“Initially, a few simple products which are similar to conventional banking products may be considered for introduction through Islamic window of the conventional banks after necessary notification by the government.

“Introduction of full-fledged Islamic banking with profit-loss sharing complex products may be considered at a later stage on the basis of experience gained in course of time,” the RBI has told finance ministry in a letter, a copy of which was received in response to an RTI query.

Islamic or Sharia banking is a finance system based on the principles of not charging interest, which is prohibited under Islam. “It is also our understanding that interest-free banking for financial inclusion will require a proper process of the product being certified as Sharia compliant will be required both on the asset and liability side and the funds received under the interest-free banking could not be mingled with other funds and therefore, this banking will have to be conducted under a separate window,” it said.

The central bank’s proposal is based on examination of legal, technical and regulatory issues regarding feasibility of introducing Islamic banking in India on the basis of recommendation of the Inter Departmental Group (IDG).

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