On Monday, the Finance Ministry refused to disclose information on the quantum of black money held by Indians within the country and abroad, saying that disclosure of any such information would constitute a breach of privilege of Parliament.
Replying to a Right to Information (RTI) query by a Press Trust of India (PTI) correspondent, the ministry refused to share copies of 3 reports published by the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP) and National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) based in Delhi, as well as the National Institute of Financial Management (NIFM), which is in Faridabad.
The terms of reference for the studies included assessment of unaccounted income and profiling the nature of activities engendering money laundering both within and outside the country. The major objective of conducting the studies was to identify sectors of the economy in which unaccounted money was generated and examine the causes and conditions that resulted in the generation of black money.
The UPA government in 2011 had commissioned the three institutions to research and report on the matter, and in the response statement said that the study reports of the NIPFP, NCAER and NIFM were received by the government on December 30 2013, July 18 2014, and August 21 2014, respectively. The reports were submitted to the Standing Committee on Finance on 21 July 2017.
Constitutionally, breach of privilege of parliament translates to “any act or omission which obstructs or impedes either House of Parliament in the performance of its functions, or which obstructs or impedes any member or officer of such House in the discharge of his duty, or which has a tendency, directly or indirectly, to produce such results may be treated as a contempt even though there is no precedent of the offence.”
Stating that the needful has been done as and when required, the ministry said that the committee remains seized of the matter. “Accordingly, the disclosure of information would cause a breach of privilege of the Parliament. Therefore, the information sought is exempt from disclosure under Section 8 (1) (c) of the RTI Act,” it said in the reply to the RTI application.