Finance ministry must be in the know of gold transactions, says CIC
Moneylife Digital Team 08 August 2011

Hearing an RTI appeal, chief information commission orders ministry to be the nodal body; Reserve Bank of India and finance ministry to submit affidavits in case of denial of any deals in the yellow metal

At a time when popular and judicial pressure is building up on the government regarding investigation of scams and financial accountability, the babus have mastered the art of passing the buck and being elusive. The ministry of finance too, has been acting slippery in furnishing information to the public. However, RTI (Right to Information) activists have found a way to make the financial authorities accountable.

While hearing an appeal by an RTI activist, the chief information commission (CIC) has ruled that the finance ministry must be the nodal body knowing the details of gold trade in India, and has asked the ministry and the RBI (Reserve Bank of India) to submit affidavits in case they deny the same.

"Commission holds that it is the Ministry of Finance who would be the nodal ministry in respect of the subject matter. Therefore, the ministry of finance, through its secretary is directed to submit (an) affidavit signed by an officer not lower in rank of deputy secretary to give (an) affidavit that information is not held by the ministry or any of its entities. Similarly CPIO, Reserve Bank of India is directed to give a similar affidavit to the commission", the commission ruled on 14th July. The affidavits have to be filed within two weeks of receipt of the judgement.

RTI applicant, Subhash Chandra Agrawal said, "I received the judgement yesterday, and I think it is the same with the ministry. I am expecting the information or the affidavits after fourteen days."

Mr Agrawal had filed an RTI (Right to Information) application in May 2010 with the department of revenue, asking for details of gold sales and consumption happening in India, and estimates for unaccounted transactions. However, the CPIO of the department replied that such information is not held by them, following which Mr Agrawal filed the first appeal in September. Dissatisfied once again, Mr Agrawal went for a second appeal before the commission.

"The RTI petition filed at the Department of Economic Affairs kept shunting between various public authorities including the RBI, Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), Department of Revenue and Directorate of Enforcement with everybody transferring the petition to each other under Section 6(3) of the RTI Act", said Mr Agrawal.

He said, "India being the largest purchaser of gold, sets the global trend. Unaccounted money is being largely invested in gold and silver. There is every possibility that money deposited in foreign banks now being transferred is responsible for sudden rise in prices of gold and silver."

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