Skip to main content

Govt of India refuses to make public black money reports citing RTI's confidentiality clauses, Parliamentary privilege

By Our Representative
Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have compared his government's efforts to flush out black money with his Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. But the ministries and departments operating under him appear to believe that reports prepared by them on black money cannot be made public because they were covered under secrecy clauses of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
While an academic study on the subject has been prepared by the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP), the National Institute of Financial Management (NIFM), both under Union finance ministry, in alliance with the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), a non-profit economic policy research institute, the Black Money Special Investigation Team (SIT) has submitted five other reports have been submitted to the Supreme Court.
Replying to an RTI plea by well-known RTI activist Venkatesh Nayak of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), if the Department of Revenue, Union finance ministry, has refused to reveal contents of the academic study saying that the report is “covered” under Parliamentary privilege, NIPFP told Nayak, the academic study is “a classified document and confidential under the terms of the agreement with the Department of Revenue.”
The replies followed Nayak seeking a copy of study reports prepared by NIPFP, NIFM and NCAER on the subject of quantum of black money, as also reports submitted by the Black Money SIT to the Supreme Court of India.
While the Black Money SIT, declared last year a public authority by the Central Information Commission, said it did not have any report on black money prepared by the NIPFP, NCAER and NIFM, among the first to reply, says Nayak, ironically, was the Foreign Tax and Tax Research Division of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) replied the information sought “did not pertain to their office”.
The CBDT’s foreign tax department sent in the reply despite the fact that, notes Nayak in an email alert, his “RTI application was primarily about action taken in India (and not abroad) to inquire or investigate the phenomenon of black money accumulation.”
In its reply, the Investigation Division of the Department of Revenue said that it is only concerned “with investigation of tax evasion petitions”, hence transferred away the RTI application to another division. Nayak comments, “By this reckoning, perhaps black money has not yet become the subject of any tax evasion petition.”
As regards reports submitted to the Supreme Court, concerned officials of the Black Money SIT told Nayak that in all five reports on black money had been submitted to the Supreme Court of India in “an ongoing case”, but “did not respond to the request for a copy of these reports.”
Recalls Nayak, “In the matter of Ram Jethmalani & Ors vs Union of India & Ors (popular as the black money case) the Supreme Court of India had rejected the then UPA government's claim that a confidentiality agreement contained in a double tax avoidance treaty with a foreign country should supersede the citizens' right to know.”
He comments, “Public authorities are now citing confidentiality clauses in domestic agreements to reject access to information.”

Comments

TRENDING

Call to support IIM-Bangalore professor, censured for seeking action against Uniliver

Counterview Desk
Sections of the Indian Institute of Managements (IIMs) across India have strongly reacted to the decision to censure Dr Deepak Malghan, a faulty at IIM-Bangalore. Prabhir Vishnu Poruthiyil, who is faculty at IIM-Tiruchirapalli, has sought wider solidarity with Dr Malghan, saying, "The administration has censured Deepak for merely suggesting a meaningful action against Hindustan Unilever for their abysmal environmental record" by “disinviting” it for campus placement.

Actionable programme for 2019 polls amidst lynch mobs, caste violence, hate mongering

Counterview Desk
Reclaiming the Republic, a civil rights network, has released a document prepared under the chairmanship of Justice AP Shah (retired) -- and backed, among others, by Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan, bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander, economist Prabhat Patnaik, Right to transparency activist Anjali Bhardwaj and social scientist Yogendra Yadav  (click HERE for full list) -- with the "aim" of putting forth policy and legislative reforms needed to “protect” and “strengthen” the Constitutional safeguards for India’s democratic polity.

Noam Chomsky, top scholars ask NRIs to take stand on human rights violations in India

Counterview Desk
Renowned world scholars, including Noam Chomsky, James Petras, Angela Davis, Fredric Jameson, Bruno Latour, Ilan Pappe, Judith Butler, among others, have issued a statement castigating the Narendra Modi government for allegedly creating an environment of fear through arrests, intimidation and violence.

India under Modi "promoted" crony business, protected financial fraudsters, fueled bigotry

By Sandeep* and Rahul Pandey**
Narendra Modi's ascension to power was accompanied with jubilation and expectation. His supporters were expecting an end to era of corruption and initiation of good governance which was described as Achche Din. His party's adherence to idea of nationalism was believed to make India a vibrant country and guide India to be a world leader. He gave the slogan of 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas' conveying that his government was for all.
Corruption The government system is infested with corruption. A minimum of 10% is siphoned off from government schemes and projects, some of which goes back to political party in power and remaining is pocketed by various administrative, executive and political functionaries. This corruption continues and has increased. Now an additional Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) person working as Official on Special Duty or some equivalent position in every government department also has a share in this booty.
The Narendra M…

Inviting Rajapaksa to India "insult" to 1,40,000 Tamils killed by Sri Lankan army

Counterview Desk
In the context of Sri Lankan opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa being invited in India, about 75 human rights activists*, claiming to be concerned about rights violations during the civil war in Sri Lanka, especially in 2009, have joined together to express their dissent through a statement.

A Godse legacy? BJP rulers have "refrained" from calling Gandhi Father of the Nation

By Dr Hari Desai*
What an agony! On one hand, the entire India is celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but on the other side, so-called Hindu Mahasabha members have been found mock-enacting the killing of the Mahatma and celebrating the murder by distributing sweets!

No aadhaar, no ration? Hard blow by Gujarat govt on poor and marginalized

By Pankti Jog*
Only those who have aadhaar registration and linked it with ration card will get ration from a Public Distribution System (PDS) shop. This decision of the Gujarat government has hit very badly thousands of poor and marginalized communities of Gujarat, especially during the drought year.

Post-advisory, Govt of India appears reluctant to ban e-cigarettes, "harmful" to kids

By Rajiv Shah
Is the Government of India dilly-dallying over the issue of banning e-cigarettes, which have been declared by anti-tobacco activists across the world as providing “an entryway to nicotine addiction”, especially among the kids? It would seem so, if the latest developments are any guide.

Poser to Modi: Why is Gujarat not fulfilling Constitutional obligations to minorities?

Counterview Desk
In an open letter, Mujahid Nafees, convener, Minority Coordination Committee (MCC), a Gujarat-based civil rights organization, has accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi on infringing upon MCC activists’ constitutional right to protest. Nafees says, they had no other demands except that the Gujarat government should move towards fulfilling the constitutional obligations towards minorities and international treaties to which India is a signatory.

World Bank needs a new perspective on development, not just a new president

By Maju Varghese*
The resignation of the World Bank President Jim Yong Kim was an unexpected development given the fact that he had three more years to complete his tenure. Resignations at such a high level after bidding for a second term is unusual which prompts people to think what would have led to the act itself.