Month after nod to black money law, questions over change in date

The Union Law Ministry had notified the law on May 27, a day after it received the assent of President Pranab Mukherjee.

Written by Maneesh Chhibber | Amritsar/new Delhi | Published:July 16, 2015 4:05 am
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Opposition parties and Constitutional experts have questioned a move by the Finance Ministry to advance the date of operation of the Centre’s black money law — from April 1, 2016 to July 1, 2015 — over a month after President Pranab Mukherjee granted assent to the original date.

Could the government have “amended” a law passed by the Parliament and one that had already received the assent of the President through an executive order, experts asked.

“If the date from which the law would come into force was part of the Bill passed by both Houses of Parliament, I don’t see how anybody other than Parliament could have changed it. The government should have gone to the Parliament for doing it,” said former Lok Sabha secretary general and Constitution expert Subhash C Kashyap.

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The Union Law Ministry had notified the law on May 27, a day after it received the assent of President Pranab Mukherjee.

While altering the date, in a notification issued on July 1 by an officer of the rank of Under Secretary, the Finance Ministry referred to Section 86 (1) of the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015, which allows the Union government to remove any “difficulty” that comes in the way of giving effect to the provisions of the Act through an order.

But legal experts say the “difficulty” that the section refers to can’t apply to the date from which the law would come into force.

“A government order issued by any government functionary can’t amend a legislation passed by Parliament. It is highly questionable. Somebody will certainly challenge it in court,” said a Constitution expert, who didn’t wish to be named.

Opposition parties have also questioned the move, with CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury saying his party would raise the issue in Parliament.

“Our stand has always been that this is a law that will only help holders of black money by giving them another amnesty scheme. But, what the government has done now is unconstitutional. Our party will raise the matter in Parliament,” Yechury said.

“How can they do it? It is not proper. They cannot do it. They (Government) should have gone back to Parliament,” said senior Congress leader and chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance M Veerappa Moily. He added that the Congress would want to know from the government the reasons for its action.

Moily also attacked the BJP-led NDA government, saying even after the Bill was passed with much fanfare “nothing has happened on the ground”.

“There is zero enforcement… It is more of an academic practice,” he said.

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