BJP, when was not in power, was quite clear about the bringing back of black money stashed abroad. The leaders, from the top wing to the bottom, seemed promising and goal-oriented in their approach, and the general public that voted in favor of saffron too anticipated that what belongs to the common man and the country would ultimately be brought back. And then something that isn’t the BJP way of governance came up. Arun Jaitley, the new Finance Minister, has a few days back warned the Congress of not that healthy position once the names of black money holders are made public. It is evident that the capable minister may not have any intent to attack an opposition party owing to political rivalry, but the words have been interpreted differently, and I can say, not in the favor of the BJP. The next day, the FM took a step ahead and said that former UPA ministers could be in the list of holders as the government has secured regarding Swiss bank accounts. ‘Blackmailing’ and ‘Political Clash’ were the expressions that Congress’ leaders urged and even the news channels were gifted with a ‘hot topic’ for discussions.
In the UPA reign too, black money was one of the most crucial matters. Reasons like covenants of the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements (DTAA) and pressure from the governments of nations where the suspected money could have been stashed were given by the then rulers for not disclosing data, even when received from some sources including the names of account holders in Liechtenstein Bank and HSBC. Stating similar reasons, the BJP government attempted to steer clear from being a detrimental ruling body for corporates and politicians who have used safe havens for keeping illicit money. In a recent turnover, senior Supreme Court lawyer Ram Jethmalani has urged that DTAAs are no valid cause for keeping the names of black money holders secret. Letter of lawyer even accuses the FM of not being willing enough in letting the Indians know the underlying facts. It is apparent that the government must have some lawful reason when they say that out of 800 names alleged to have illicit money abroad, only 136 can be reported to the Apex Court. Otherwise I believe that the sincere BJP squad would not have been so limited or I must say biased.
It is now being heard that the government has started filing charges and prosecution has been commenced against one or some of the account holders as are in the HSBC Geneva list. Again this selective approach of the government has raised many voices. In many talks, we can hear of charges against a former union minister. The general public is keen to know why can’t the government probe all the Indians as are included in the lists and as a swift measure, why can’t the Income Tax officials be ordered to scrutinize the returns and records of such account holders to find whether the money in foreign bank accounts is legitimate or illicit. CBDT, Financial Intelligence Unit, Central Economic Intelligence Bureau, and CBI are all distinct wings of the central government that have the powers and caliber to assess the legitimacy of money deposited/ stashed abroad. Then we have a lengthy list of legislators, senior advocates, and retired judges who can study the agreements signed by the Indian government with foreign nations and can advise what canbe done and what is forbidden.
In an endeavor to make helpful changes in international agreements, the Swiss’ rulers are thinking over including such norms in bilateral treaties so that the tax evading done by individuals and corporates is slammed. Information sharing post such changes will become easier and fast. The Indian government, which had the issue of black money as one the most votes-attracting matter, is either feeling the pressure of corporates or is dealing with the matter with deficient attention. For any misperceptions, if there are, in the DTAAs with respect to sharing of account holders’ names, must be sought out with the help of skilled interpreters. To know whether the money lying abroad has generated from legal/ illicit source, Income Tax officials, who can assess the same, can be handed over the list of names and the outcomes can be expected in a week or two. Also, valid and positive amendments can be made to the existing bilateral agreements with safe haven nations to assure that receipt of information on black money account holders becomes uncomplicated in the future. All in all, the BJP squad will have to realize the keenness of the general public as well as the Apex Court on this subject-matter.