New Delhi: BJP did a volte face on the black money stashed away abroad by telling the SC that could not disclose the names of those who have deposited money in banks abroad, citing double taxation avoidance treaties with other countries.
It said that as per this law it cannot make public the names that were disclosed by foreign banks. The move has drawn flak from the opposition Congress party, which was criticised for taking the same position during the United Progressive Alliance regime. During its Lok Sabha poll campaign, the Bharatiya Janata Party had promised to recover undeclared money kept by Indians in overseas banks if elected to power.
Its stand was made in an application seeking modification of an earlier court order asking it to disclose the names all such people it had received from German government to the petitioner Senior counsel Ram Jethmalani.
Jethmalani who slammed the previous government said that the current government was trying to shield the rich and corrupt.
“Matter should not be entertained even for a day. Such an application could only be made by crooks who have illegally parked their ill-gotten money abroad and not by a democratically elected government,” Jethmalani said, adding that Centre is trying to protect the people who have stashed black money in foreign banks.
Global Financial Integrity, a Washington-based think-tank, has estimated that Indians had salted away $462 billion (about Rs. 28 lakh crore in current exchange rates) in overseas tax havens between 1948-2008. A study by industry body Assocham says nearly $2 trillion or Rs. 120 lakh crore of Indian black money is stashed overseas. Assocham’s black money estimate is more than the country’s nominal GDP, which stood at Rs.114 lakh crore or $1.9 trillion in 2013-14. Jethmalani claims that around Rs 70 lakhcrore is stashed in foreign banks.
He said that he has written a letter to Prime Minister on this issue and his response is awaited.
Interestingly, the apex court had earlier rejected the same stand taken by UPA government, observing that such DTAA does not prevent the Centre from disclosing the names of the persons having bank accounts in foreign banks.
The Congress, for its part, demanded an apology from Mr. Modi for misleading the nation. Accusing the BJP and Mr. Modi of “political dishonesty”, Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said the stand taken by the government in the Supreme Court earlier in the day was basically a repetition of what the former Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, had said in the past.
“At that time, he was shouted down by the BJP” and its supporters like Baba Ramdev and Kiran Bedi, Mr. Singhvi said. Why is one government’s inaction on black money alright while another government was ridiculed for it?”