The Finance Ministry today said that it is examining three reports on the quantum of black money held by Indians inside the country and abroad that were commissioned by the previous UPA regime and submitted more than three years ago.
Responding to an RTI query filed by a PTI correspondent, the ministry said information on the findings of the reports was "exempt from disclosure" under the RTI Act as they were under examination and were yet to be "taken to" Parliament.
The studies were conducted by the Delhi-based National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP) and National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) as well as the National Institute of Financial Management (NIFM) in Faridabad. The NIPFP, NCAER and NIFM reports were received by the government on December 30, 2013, July 18, 2014, and August 21, 2014, respectively. The present Narendra Modi-led BJP government came to power in May 2014.
"Information is exempt from disclosure under Section 8 (1) (c) of the RTI Act, 2005, as the study reports received from the three institutes are under examination of the government and the same along with the government's response on these reports are yet to be taken to the Parliament through the Standing Committee on Finance," the Finance Ministry said in its reply.
The Section bars "information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature". These reports have already been submitted to the Standing Committee on Finance. There is at present no official assessment on the quantum of black money in India and abroad.
A recent study by the US-based think tank Global Financial Integrity (GFI) said an estimated USD 770 billion in black money entered India during 2005-2014.
Nearly USD 165 billion in illicit money exited the country during the same period, the global financial watchdog had said.
"The issue of black money has attracted a lot of public and media attention in the recent past. So far, there are no reliable estimates of black money generated and held within and outside the country," the Finance Ministry had said while ordering the studies in 2011.
These estimates were based on various unverifiable assumptions and approximations, it had said.
"Government has been seized of the matter and has, therefore, commissioned these institutions to get an estimation and sense of the quantum of illicit fund generated and held within and outside the country," the Ministry had said.
The Terms of Reference (ToR) for the studies included assessment or survey of unaccounted income and wealth and profiling the nature of activities engendering money laundering both within and outside the country. While NIPFP and NIFM are autonomous institutes of the Finance Ministry, NCAER is India's oldest and largest independent, non-profit, economic policy research institute.