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

Muted profit margins, moderate increase in costs and sales: IIM-A survey of 1000 cos

By Our Representative  The Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad’s (IIM-A's) latest Business Inflation Expectations Survey (BIES) has said that the cost perceptions data obtained from India’s business executives suggests that there is “mild increase in cost pressures”.

What's Bill Gates up to? Have 'irregularities' found in funding HPV vaccine trials faded?

By Colin Gonsalves*  After having read the 72nd report of the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on alleged irregularities in the conduct of studies using HPV vaccines by PATH in India, it was startling to see Bill Gates bobbing his head up and down and smiling ingratiatingly on prime time television while the Prime Minister lectured him in Hindi on his plans for the country. 

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

Alleged killing of another Bangladesh youth inside Indian territory: NHRC inquiry sought

By Kirity Roy* There was yet another incident of the killing of a Bangladeshi youth by the Border Security Force personnel attached with ‘Barthar’ BOP of ‘G’ Company of 75 BSF Battalion. In last five years several incidents of killings happened under this police station’s jurisdiction and the cases will get the award as “Not Guilty” as usual.

Govt putting India's professionals, skilled, unskilled labour 'at mercy of' big business

By Thomas Franco, Dinesh Abrol*  As it is impossible to refute the report of the International Labour Organisation, Chief Economic Advisor Anantha Nageswaran recently said that the government cannot solve all social, economic problems like unemployment and social security. He blamed the youth for not acquiring enough skills to get employment. Then can’t the people ask, ‘Why do we have a government? Is it not the government’s responsibility to provide adequate employment to its citizens?’

IMA vs Ramdev: Why what's good or bad for goose should be good or bad for gander

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD* Baba Ramdev and his associate Balkrishna faced the wrath of the Supreme Court for their propaganda about their Ayurvedic products and belittling mainstream medicine. Baba Ramdev had to apologize in court. His apology was not accepted and he may face the contempt of court with harsher punishment. The Supreme Court acted on a public interest litigation (PIL) moved by the Indian Medical Association (IMA).

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Modi model, Hindutva icon 'justified' alliance with Muslim League before Independence

By Shamsul Islam*  Our PM describes himself as ‘Hindu’ nationalist and member of RSS. He proudly shares the fact that he was groomed to be a political leader by one of the two fathers of the Hindutva politics, MS Golwalkar (the other being VD Savarkar) and given the task of establishing Hindutva polity in India after eradicating secularism.

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

Indians witnessing 'regression to Hindutva politics' under Modi ahead of elections

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  The forthcoming general election in India, scheduled from April 19, 2024, to June 1, 2024, to elect the 543 members of the 18th Lok Sabha and the new Government of India, carries immense significance for the preservation of India's identity as a liberal, secular, and constitutional democracy.