Legalities stop us from disclosing: Pranab

NEW DELHI: Unfazed by opposition attacks and questions from the Supreme Court, government on Tuesday maintained that it cannot disclose information received from foreign entities on black money held by Indians abroad because of absence of legal framework.

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, however, dismissed opposition criticism that it was not disclosing information because such disclosure could result in the government`s fall.

"Let us understand the issue. No information can be made available unless there is a legal framework. No sovereign country is going to share information unless there is a legal framework," he told a press conference explaining the reasons why the government was not in a position to part with information it has obtained some foreign entities on black money stashed away abroad.

However, he said Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) and Exchange of Taxation Information Agreement are two instrumentalities under which information can obtained and the government has already amended pacts with 23 countries to get information from banks.

"But the problem is information which we have obtained has come under some conditions of secrecy. Today, if we disclose tomorrow other countries will not give me the information raising an accusing finger that you do not meet international commitments," he said.

However, Mukherjee said "there is a way. As and when the Income Tax Authorities will be in a position to prosecute cases against tax evaders you will come to know".

"Even I have no intention or authority of knowing the names (of those who have stashed black money abroad). The Income Tax officers have statutory powers under which they perform their duties and they are outside the purview of the administrative control of the ministry," Mukherjee said.