Days after the Lok Sabha cleared it, Rajya Sabha on Wednesday passed the black money bill and the government managed to send it back to Lok Sabha before the session ended. Representatives across party lines supported the bill, but put on record their disagreement with some of its aspects.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that the bill, when made an Act, will provide the last window for those stashing black money in foreign banks to come out clean. In case they don’t, the government will come down heavily upon them, he said.
The “window” provided in the Bill “is not an amnesty scheme”, Jaitley said. He said the defaulters will have to pay 30 per cent tax and 30 per cent penalty. However, those who do not declare their wealth in the window period will be liable to pay 30 per cent tax and 90 per cent penalty and could also face imprisonment for a minimum of three years which could go up to 10 years.
Jaitley said time is running out for all such individuals “as the world is no longer willing to tolerate” tax havens.
The Finance Minister added that 2017 onwards, India will be getting real-time information about expenditure by Indian individuals in foreign countries as part of an arrangement with G-20 countries.
Reacting to the Opposition charge that the government has failed to make public the names of those who have stashed money abroad, Jaitley said Germany and UK have sought clarification asking why names of those which were given to India in confidence “found place in the Indian newspapers”.
The Opposition, however, targeted the government, saying that BJP’s promise of transferring Rs 15 lakh in every citizen’s account in run-up to 2014 Lok Sabha elections was false. Taking a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury demanded that the “56-inch government” takes up the black money issue effectively with foreign governments.
Yechury and TMC’s Derek O’Brien also said the term black money is “racist”. Sanjay Raut of Shiv Sena, while supporting the Bill said, “We all know where black money is generated from”. In politics, everyone’s hands are immersed in black money “including many of us here”, he said.
A Money Bill, the black money bill had to be returned to Lok Sabha and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu appealed to the Upper House that the Bill be sent back by 5.30pm. The most stinging attack came from Ram Jethmalani. Criticising successive governments for their failure to bring back black money stashed abroad, he said he opposes the bill as it does not have a clause that all unclaimed money should be brought back.