The Rajya Sabha witnessed a spirited debate over the Finance Bill, with finance minister Arun Jaitley facing some tough rebuttals from former finance minister P Chidambaram
This is what Arun Jaitley had to say:
We want to take action which may either want to have an assault on what is the shadow economy or the parallel economy itself. Let us take this example of what everybody has commented on Section 132. Section 132, in simple, is a provision which has existed long time. All it says is that there must be a satisfaction note prepared which must give details before you can search or seize a property. So, if there is a tax search, a satisfaction note must exist.
This was always the law and this will continue to be the law. So, nobody can enter the premises and start searching without a satisfaction note.
As regards political funding, historically, we have seen a situation where we made several changes in the past, and, those changes have produced only limited results. In the Budget this year, by a primary amendment to the Income Tax Act, we have made a provision where political funding in four different manners is made permissible.
The first is that anybody can donate money to a political party by cheque. Obviously, the donor will declare it in his accounts and the political party will declare it. And, there is complete freedom both for the donor and the recipient to receive that money. This is a practice which is in vogue since the year 2001-02. Obviously, our experience has been that there has only been limited success in this area and the reason for this limited success is that the donors have conventionally been reluctant, even when political parties have been willing, to encourage it by cheque, for reason of disclosure of identity and consequences that may fall on them.
But as far as tax evasion is concerned, the present Bill says, either give your Aadhaar number or give proof of the fact that you applied for it, that is all, in your tax assessment so that the possibility of a person committing tax frauds, filing through different pan cards, all that can be eliminated. Why should we not allow this technology which was created in larger public interest to be utilized for this particular purpose? Sir, these are broadly some of the main points as far as the taxation proposals are concerned. I may only say this that while encouraging more and more people to join the tax net, the lowest slab we have reduced to 5 per cent and the idea is that more people should feel attracted enough to join.
And this is what Chidambaram had to say:
The Income Tax Act is of 1961. It is now 56 years that this Act has been in operation. It is nobody's case that no raids have taken place in the last 56 years; it is nobody's case that sources have not given information; it is nobody's case that reasons have not been recorded; and, it cannot be the Finance Minister's case that in specific cases, those reasons have been challenged and I am sure the Finance Minister, as a lawyer, has, on occasions, challenged those reasons and the Courts have struck down those reasons. The Commission can struck down the reasons. The Appellate Tribunal can say that this action was illegal because the reasons were either illusory, non-existent or unjustified.
All that Mr. Sibal argued is that the settled law is that reasons must be given to the assessee and the assessee must have the freedom to challenge it before an appropriate authority. Let the Finance Minister protect the source. In no case, is a source given. I have dealt with this Department. I have dealt with this subject as a lawyer. In no case, is a source given; only the reasons have to be given. If the reasons are bad, we have a right to challenge them. Let the Finance Minister say that all that he wants to protect is the source, but the reasons will be given to the assessee whenever he wants to challenge it.
We are grateful that you have acknowledged that Aadhaar was the initiative of the previous government and you have expanded it. The question is, one, the purpose of Aadhaar. Aadhaar was an instrument to extend services and benefits, especially, subsidies.
Aadhaar was never intended to be tagged to income tax returns and bank accounts. But if your Government has taken a decision to tag it to income tax accounts and bank accounts, so be it. I accept it, for the time being, that maybe there are some benefits by asking it to be tagged to income tax accounts and bank accounts. The larger question, that is being raised, and I think you should answer is, how will you protect the privacy of transactions in bank accounts? How will you protect the privacy of facts, material in the income tax returns? The Pentagon has been hacked, and five hundred million accounts have been hacked by somebody sitting in some country of Europe. What is the guarantee that you have the technology to prevent hacking of bank accounts, hacking of income tax accounts through the Aadhaar number? The complaint of Mr. Mahendra Singh Dhoni's wife is that her Aadhaar number is being made public. Now, if Aadhaar numbers are available to a large number of authorities, what is the guarantee that using the Aadhaar number route, these accounts will not be hacked and the privacy that is required to be maintained by these accounts will not be breached? That is the question.