People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 21

May 27, 2012

Whitewashing Black Money


The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) issued the following statement on May 22, 2012.


THE finance ministry’s white paper on black money, presented in parliament, reflects a trite exercise devoid of any political will. Neither has any credible estimate of black money stashed abroad been provided by the white paper nor any concrete measures suggested to retrieve the illicit funds.


The paper states that the total amount held in the Indian deposits of Swiss banks fell from Rs 23,373 crore in 2006 to Rs 9,295 in 2010. The government seems to have no clue as to where this amount has gone. There is no assessment of Indian deposits in other offshore financial centres. The paper suggests that much of illicit financial outflows are round-tripped into India through FDI via the Mauritius route or via FII investments through participatory notes. Yet there is no specific recommendation to ban participatory notes or to scrap the DTAA with Mauritius


The paper cites the Global Financial Integrity study which estimated the current value of illicit financial flows from India between 1948 and 2008 to be around 462 billion dollars (Rs 25 lakh crore approximately). The fact that these are not gross overestimates can be seen from the information provided by the white paper: over the last two financial years (2010-2012) alone the Directorate of Transfer Pricing has detected mispricing (such as over-invoicing and under-invoicing of imports and exports) to the tune of a whopping Rs 67,768 crore in 1,343 cases. Rs 48,951 crore have also been collected by the Directorate of International Taxation in just two years, between 2010 and 2012. It is clear that these amounts detected or collected over the past two years still comprise the tip of the iceberg. 


The white paper reveals that the amounts of undisclosed income of Indians, who figure in the lists of secret bank account holders received from the German and French governments respectively, are Rs 40 crore and Rs 565 crore only. These are minor parties. The Indian individuals and entities who are holding bulk of the illicit wealth in offshore accounts, are yet to be identified. The white paper disappointingly reiterates the myriad technical difficulties involved in retrieving these huge amounts stashed abroad.


The lack of progress in this direction raises doubts over the sincerity of the UPA government on this crucial issue. The Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) demands that a serious effort be made to quantify illicit funds stashed abroad by Indians and identify the culprits. Undisclosed assets of Indians located abroad should be confiscated by the government as per the provisions of the Income Tax Act.


‘Reconsider Marriage Law Amendments’


On May 21, AIDWA general secretary Sudha Sundarraman, Brinda Karat and Kirti Singh sent the following letter to the union law minister, Salman Khursheed, regarding the amendment of marriage law.


WE appreciate your initiative to take our opinion on the official amendments to the marriage law. We regret that we are unable to support the proposed amendment which does not adequately protect women in a situation created due to the liberalisation of divorce laws. We would like to point out that in countries where divorce laws are liberalised, as is now proposed in India, women are protected by laws which mandate equal share in matrimonial property. For the government to propose one without the other is unfair and unjust to women. This is the opinion of major national women’s organisations. These organisations and leaders include, apart from Sudha Sundarraman (AIDWA), Vimal Thorat (AIDMAM), Sheila Kakkade (AIWC), Indu Agnihotri (CWDS), Mohini Giri (Guild of Service), Jyotsna Chatterjee (JWP), Azra Abdi (MWF), Annie Raja (NFIW) and Leile Passah (YWCA).


The proposal to give an equal share to women only in residential property will not be sufficient. As you are well aware, couples often live in their in-laws’ home and therefore in a large number of cases, if the law is limited only to residential property, the woman in such a situation will be without any protection. The proposal also clubs women’s share with the share of the children, which means that the husband gets a greater share. Further, the proposal denies a woman a share in the moveable or immoveable property of her husband created during the subsistence of the marriage as a right. Instead, she will have to go to the court and it is left to the discretion of the court to decide the share, if any, which she will get only in moveable property. As we all know, legal and judicial procedures take a long time and are expensive. Thus a woman who has been divorced on grounds of irretrievable breakdown will have to run from court to court to get justice without the necessary mandate from the law. We had suggested in the earlier April 18 amendment that instead of leaving it to the court, it should be decided in the law itself that moveable and immoveable property, during subsistence of marriage, should be equally shared. We had also given you our concrete proposals on Clause 13 F, which we reiterate. In page 3 after line 3, section 13F to be amended as follows: That at page 3 the inserted amendment clause 13F in the Bill after line 3 be deleted and the following be inserted:


“Without prejudice to any custom or usage or any other law for the time being in force, in any proceeding for a divorce or separation, the court may on a petition made by the wife, order that the husband shall give an equal share of the residential property, and also of any other movable and immovable property acquired during the subsistence of marriage. Provided that the court shall also take into account any disadvantage suffered by the woman, especially taking note of the presence of children, and give her a further share of the property.”


The women’s organisations are unable to appreciate why the government has prioritised the passage of amendments to liberalise divorce laws when there are so many pending legislations concerning women’s rights which women in India have been pressing for. The amendments being proposed on marriage laws are for whose benefit? We request you to reconsider the amendments. Please do not push them through without the necessary protection for women through joint matrimonial property.