NEW DELHI: In a sharp response to Rahul Gandhi's "Fair and Lovely" remark on income disclosure scheme, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today reminded Congress of its "own track record" of bringing a scheme in 1997 under which there was no penalty for disclosure of black money.
Intervening in the debate in Rajya Sabha on Motion of Thanks on President's address, he said government has no hesitation in releasing names of those accused of possessing black money, but it would do so as per procedure and once criminal cases are registered against them.
Defending the income disclosure schemes introduced by the government, he said in the last 21 months "we have shown intent" and will not spare anyone possessing black money and will punish them with strict laws brought in now.
"When you make comments on steps we are taking on black money, please honestly consider your track record," Jaitley said attacking the Congress whose Vice President had last week alleged in Lok Sabha that the disclosure scheme was "Fair and Lovely" to allow conversion of black money into white.
To hit back, Jaitley referred to a similar scheme in 1997 announced by then Finance Minister P Chidambaram.
"Some comments were made with regard to the income disclosure scheme that we have just announced. Compare it with what had happened in the past. In the past you had several schemes...When your leaders criticise us, they should realise what had happened in the past," he said.
Reacting to opposition criticism on blackmoney, he said, the new scheme announced by the government is to give an opportunity to people to declare their untaxed incomes and it was "not an amnesty scheme".
"If you have an income which has escaped tax, declare it, pay tax plus 50 per cent penalty. This is not an amnesty in which there is 50 per cent penalty," he said.
Pointing out at Chidambaram's scheme which saw many honest tax payers being taken to court, the finance minister said, "An amnesty scheme in which people were asked to just pay 30 per cent tax and declare it by paying at 1987 incometax rates.
Most declarants were minor children and women as people invested in their names. Honest tax-payers went to court...
He said, "somehow that decision was averted, but the effect of that scheme is that the next year, there was no buoyancy in tax revenue collection."
On disclosure of names of black money, Jaitley said, "We cannot make the names of black money holders public at will.
Revealing details will take time...but, people not disclosing black money, will be dealt with strictly and punished."
The Finance Minister said "there is a procedure of making names (of those holding black money accounts in foreign banks) public. If we make it public, it will help the account holders."
"Your advice (to make names public) is a bonafide advice, but it will land the Government of India in a trap. All your cooperation treaties have a covenant that information is being provided on a condition and that condition is that it can be made public only if a case is registered against the account holder.
"If you start using it for political purposes, then it will disentitle you to get more information. The best way of helping the accused is a breach of treaty. That is not an advise we are following. But we will stricly follow the procedure," Jaitley said.
He said a Bearer Bond scheme in 1980 yielded only Rs 904 crore and it is not necessary that all schemes will benefit the nation and asked opposition parties to help the government in countering the effects of global economic slowdown.
"This is the period when we need cooperation of all political groups. We are in the midst of a situation where we are fighting a global economic slowdown. The global economy is shrinking. The new norm now is volatility and uncertainty. We need to create firewalls to protect our economy," he said.
Attacking the previous Congress-led UPA government, he said, "The UPA government left us double digit inflation as a legacy."
On rising bank NPAs, Jaitley said, "It is not a big crisis buit it is certainly a challenge" and added that the loans given by public sector banks were not given during their tenure and wondered if there was any political interference while giving them.
For rising NPAs, he also blamed sluggishness in the Steel industry and state power discoms who took bank loans to subsidise power and were now unable to pay back to banks.
Defending the decision of not passing the entire benefit of reducing oil prices to consumers, the Finance Minister said while a major part has been passed on to consumers, some has been given to loss-making oil companies and part invested in infrastructure-creation especially in rural areas.
Jaitley also rejected opposition criticism for bringing money bills to avoid passage in Rajya Sabha, where government does not enjoy a majority, saying, "If a bill is money bill it is for the Speaker to certify it."
Attacking the opposition, he said, "Indian democracy is not so fragile that every decision of the government becomes a threat to democracy."