New Delhi: In a major development towards bringing transparency in the probe into black money stashed in Swiss banks, the Central Information Commission (CIC)has directed the Enforcement Directorate (ED)to make public an estimate of the total amount of such money involved in its investigations.
Rejecting the contention of the directorate that it has been exempted from making disclosures under the RTI Act, the commission has held all such matters now investigated by the ED come within the definition of allegations of corruption and, hence, should be disclosed.
“The ED can let the country know as to how much is the total sum of such money they are dealing with in their current investigations.This figure can be arrived at through the simple contrivance of aggregating the sums of money in all such investigations currently underway,” the commission held in a recent order.
The bench headed by the then chief information commissioner (CIC) Wajahat Habibullah comprising of present CIC AN Tiwari and information commissioners Shailesh Gandhi and ML Sharma, however, exempted the directorate from disclosing the nature of such investigations and names of parties involved.
“While the ED may take the position that they have no way of assessing the total volume of illegally held money by Indians in foreign banks, they can surely provide an estimate of the total volume of such money involved in the investigations they are presently conducting,” the transparency panel said in its order.
In response to an RTI application filed by V Chandran, the directorate has taken a position that it could not confirm or deny media reports about the likely volume of black money stashed away in foreign banks by Indian nationals.
“This position is, doubtless, defensible, it leaves unanswered the perennial question as to what resources the country has lost to the evil of money laundering. We would like this matter to be taken beyond technicalities and to address the larger issue related to transparency in this vital field, about which the citizens of our country are keen for answers,” the commission said.