An RTI reply has exposed the claims made by the Centre’s Narendra Modi government on dealing with the black money.
When asked to provide information on a number of FIRs filed against the black money hoarders by the newly formed Multi Agency Group, Union Finance Ministry headed by Arun Jaitley said that not a single FIR had been filed till date.
Justifying the zero FIR against the black money hoarders, the finance ministry said that there was no provision to register an FIR under the law.
The RTI reply said,, “The mandate of Multi Agency Group is to facilitate co-ordinated and speedy investigations into Panama Paper Leaks. The investigations are conducted by the specific agencies. As per the Income Tax Act, 1961 and Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015 there is no provision of registering FIR.”
The Multi Agency Group was formed in April last year to investigate the legality of money stashed in offshore entities by Indians named in the Panama Papers leak. On 6 November, the Central Board of Direct Taxes said that the MAG will monitor the probe and take “swift action” on the ‘Paradise Papers’ on financial holdings abroad that list a number of Indian entities.
The panel will first go through the details of income tax returns filed by the 714 Indian individuals and entities reportedly named in the Paradise Papers and subsequently take action, on a case-to-case basis, officials added.
However, activist Neeraj Sharma said that the formation of MAG and other investigations were pointless if the laws did not allow the government to register an FIR against the black money hoarders.
Sharma told Janta Ka Reporter, “Can someone ask our prime minister how will he jail black money hoarders if there is no provision to register FIR?”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made the black money a key election issue during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. While addressing an election rally in Uttar Pradesh in December last year, Modi had said that he “will find a way” to jail the rich who had after demonetisation stashed their ill-gotten wealth in the Jan Dhan bank accounts of the poor.
He had said, “Whoever has deposited the money in your accounts, don’t withdraw a rupee from it. See how they will plead and fall at your feet. If they threaten you tell them, ‘I will write a letter to Modi’.”
But the latest revelation through RTI reply will provide his critics, particularly Congress party, more ammunition to embarrass the prime minister and his party during the election campaign in Gujarat.