No death penalty for economic offenders: Law Min

New Delhi: The Law Ministry on Friday told a government panel on black money that imposing death penalty on economic offenders would be barbaric and take the nation backward.

The opinion was communicated to CBDT Chairman M C Joshi- headed panel on black money which discussed the need for strengthening the administrative mechanism to deal with the menace.

The committee, according to a Finance Ministry official, was against any amnesty scheme for tax evaders and "is not likely to recommend Voluntary Disclosure of Income Scheme (VDIS) for assessees, domestic or overseas".

As regards harsher punishment for economic offenders, the Law Ministry representative told the Committee that it was not possible to award death penalty or life imprisonment to them.

"It (death penalty) is barbaric. Such provisions will take the country centuries back," the official said.

Death penalty is awarded in the rarest of rare cases by Indian courts.

"No need for new laws. Existing laws are adequate to deal with economic offences. We only need to strengthen administrative machinery and deploy more manpower and resources," said an official after the meeting.

It, however, is of the view that taxmen should be given powers to look into income tax returns even beyond six assessment years.

Constituted in May, the panel was asked to suggest legal framework for confiscating illegal wealth and measures to bring back black money stashed abroad.

The committee on black money has been asked to examine, among other things, imposing an "exemplary punishment" on perpetrators of illegal funds.

After the committee meeting, the Finance Ministry official said laws are being reviewed on a continuous process. Giving an example, he said the proposed Direct Tax Code (DTC) is a modern and competent direct tax law.

The existing laws like the Income Tax Act and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act have provisions for tough punishments for economic offences, he said.

While the committee is not in favour of enacting any new law, it may suggest to the government that the real estate business should be regulated.

The need of the hour, the panel opined, was proper implementation of laws and a better information sharing system between the various agencies of the government..

It is likely to submit its recommendation by November.

During the meeting, public feedback on the issue also came up for discussions.

Some of the major suggestions include state funding of elections, compulsory scrutiny of returns of politicians, sale of public licences only through auction and passing of public delivery act.

With an aim to deal with the menace of black money, India has adopted a five-pronged strategy, including negotiation and re-negotiation of tax treaties with different countries.