The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has refused to disclose the quantum of black money brought back from abroad, citing a provision of the Right to Information Act that bars disclosure of information that may impede investigation and prosecution of offenders.

Its response came on an October 16 order passed by the Central Information Commission (CIC), asking the PMO to provide details within 15 days.

The PMO said a special investigation team had already been formed and its investigation was under way. As such, disclosure of all the action by the government at this juncture might impede investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders and hence would attract the provision of exemption under Section 8 (1) (h) of the RTI Act, it said in response to the application filed by whistle-blower bureaucrat Sanjiv Chaturvedi.

Such investigations came under different government intelligence and security organisations excluded from the ambit of the RTI Act, the PMO said.

Mr. Chaturvedi, an Indian Forest Service officer, sought information on the quantum of black money brought from abroad since June 1, 2014. In its initial reply, the PMO said in October last year that the question was not covered under Section 2(f) of the law that defines information. Mr. Chaturvedi then moved the CIC.

There is no official assessment of the quantum of black money in India and abroad. According to a study by US-based think-tank Global Financial Integrity (GFI), an estimated USD 770 billion in black money entered India during 2005-2014. Nearly $165 billion in illicit money exited the country during the same period, the report by the global financial watchdog said.

In response to another query mentioned in the Chaturvedi’s application, the PMO refused to share details of corruption complaints received against Union ministers, saying providing such information “may be a subjective as well as a cumbersome exercise”.

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