Thursday, November 11, 2010

Black money in Swiss banks - ED refuses to make estimates public

New Delhi: Despite an order from the Central Information Commission (CIC) asking the Enforcement Directorate to make public an estimate of money stashed in secret accounts in Swiss banks, the agency continues to deny the information.

A full bench of the transparency panel had directed the ED in September, an organisation exempted under the RTI Act, to provide information on the issue as it related to corruption and its disclosure was in public interest. Significantly, the Commission had, in response to an RTI appeal filed by V Chandran, overruled objections raised by ED that the agency was exempt and asked it to make public only an estimated amount of the black money involved.
However, when activist S C Agrawal -- citing the CIC order -- asked for information related to the black money stashed in Swiss bank accounts, it was denied on the plea that the organisation was exempt under the second schedule of section 24 of the RTI Act.
The second schedule exempts several organisations like intelligence agencies, paramilitary forces among others from disclosing information. However, the exemption does not cover information which may be related to human rights violations and corruption.
In its order the CIC said, “All matters now investigated by the Enforcement Directorate in the matter of stashing away of Indian money in foreign banks, come within the definition of allegations of corruption in Section 24.’’
But despite such clear orders, Agrawal was refused the information. In its reply ED said, “Attention of the applicant is invited to section 24 of the RTI Act, 2005 inter-alia to the effect that - ‘(i) Nothing contained in this Act shall apply to the intelligence and security organisations specified in the Second Schedule...’ Directorate of Enforcement is one such organisation,’’ it said.
Agrawal has filed a complaint with the CIC saying that the CPIO has “defied” the orders of the Commission by not providing the information which was allowed to be disclosed by the transparency watchdog.

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