Gold hunt: Incredible comical India at it again
By Soli J Sorabjee | Published: 20th October 2013 06:00 AM |
Our country deserves a place in the Guinness Books of Records for the incredible bizarre events which take place with a touch of comedy. Recently a sadhu, Shobhan Sarkar, dreamt of a king who introduces himself as Raja Ram Baksh of Unnao. The king points the sadhu to a treasure of gold buried near the Shiva temple where the king worshipped the deity. As a patriotic citizen, the sadhu writes about his dream to our President, our Prime Minister, the chief of the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) and to local politicians. Owing to considerable pressure generated, the ASI has undertaken a survey of the area where a dig is underway with a handful of 10 to 12 labourers using simple tools. The site of the dig is cordoned off by a bamboo boundary wall. On Thursday, the area around the site had turned into a mela ground of sorts for locals. An enterprising individual has set up a make-shift tea stall which has attracted several locals. It is said that the ASI’s excavation strategy is according to sadhu Sarkar’s dream. ASI officials, however, have stated it is not the sadhu’s dream alone that has galvanised them into action but a report by the ministry of culture which cites observations by the Geological Survey of India that there could be some ‘metal bounty’ under the earth. It will be worthwhile knowing the content and value of this metal bounty. Besides who will be declared its owner, the deity, or some other individuals? The income tax officials must be itching to spring into action. Not unexpectedly, lawyers will have a bountiful day in unravelling the inevitable legal issues, thanks to the sadhu’s dream. But pray, what about the patriotic sadhu? Will he be rewarded monetarily by the authorities? Or in keeping with his spiritual status, would he be content with an appropriate Padma award? We have to await the list of 2014 Padma awardees.
Historic Swiss Move: Switzerland is no longer the most sought-after tax haven for tax evaders and the corrupt gentry. Bowing to international pressure for repeal of Swiss secrecy laws which facilitated massive tax evasion and owing to whistleblowers giving out details of money laundering by individuals and companies, Switzerland at long last signed the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters. The Swiss Federal Council gave its approval to the treaty on October 9. This marks the end of banking secrecy in Switzerland which will be breaking its own time honoured and time-tested laws on banking secrecy. The Swiss move is considered as preparing the way for automatic exchange of tax information. One view is that under the convention as it stands, the automatic exchange of information is optional. The convention provides the option to undertake automatic exchange, while requiring an agreement between the parties interested in this form of assistance. With the support of the G20, automatic exchange is becoming the new international standard, and Switzerland in due time is likely to exchange financial information automatically.
All said and done, the Swiss move is a salutary development and should be a major boost to our country in the battle against black money stashed overseas. India is already a party to the convention and the fact that Switzerland has now joined will help Indian authorities to obtain information with greater ease on Indian monies illegally stashed away in Swiss banks, provided there is the requisite political will. The latest Swiss move will have an impact on the case pending in the Supreme Court regarding Swiss Bank accounts and disclosure of the names of the account holders. According to latest official figures released by Swiss National Bank, total funds held by Indians in Swiss banks were about `9,000 crore. The latest Swiss move is likely to give sleepless nights to some persons in our country. After all, uneasy lies the head which has numbered Swiss accounts.
Sorabjee is a former Attorney General of India