A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Delhi High Court by Advocate and BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay seeking direction to government to ascertain the feasibility of confiscating 100% black money, benami property, disproportionate assets and awarding life imprisonment in offences relating to disproportionate assets, money laundering, tax evasion, bribery, black money, benami property, profiteering, hoarding, adulteration, black marketing, human-drug trafficking and dishonest misappropriation of property by cheating fraud forgery.
The Ministries of Home Affairs, Finance, Law & Justice and Law Commission of India as well as Government of NCT Delhi have been made respondents in the said petition.
The petition states that,
● Rule of law guaranteed under Article 14, right to trade guaranteed under Article 19 and right to clean air and water, right to health, right to peaceful sleep, right to shelter, right to livelihood guaranteed under Article 21 and right to equal quality education guaranteed under Articles 21A; can’t be secured without weeding-out corruption and black money generation but Centre and State are not taking appropriate steps. Hence, this PIL.
● Our Anti-Corruption Laws are weak and ineffective, for example Section 7 to 15 of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988; Section 53 Benami Transactions Property Act, 1988; Section 4 of Money Laundering Act, 2002; and Section 33 to 37 of Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010.
● Being the custodian of Constitution and protector of fundamental rights, the Court may constitute an expert committee or direct the Law Commission of India to examine the most stringent anti-corruption laws of the developed countries, particularly the laws relating to bribery, black money, benami property, disproportionate assets, tax evasion, money laundering, profiteering, hoarding, adulteration, human and drug trafficking, black marketing, dishonest misappropriation of property by cheating fraud forgery, and prepare a comprehensive report within three months.
● Total budget of Centre, States & Local bodies is 70 lacs crore but due to massive corruption in every public department, around 20% of the budget i.e., Rs. 14 lacs crore becomes black money. Government can save this huge money by recalling currency above Rs. 100, restricting cash transactions above Rs. 5000, linking assets above Rs. 50,000 with AADHAAR, confiscating 100% disproportionate assets, black money, benami property and awarding life imprisonment to looters. Petitioner submits that black money is used in anti-national activities.
● Due to Government inaction, even after 75 years of independence and 72 years after becoming socialist secular democratic republic, none of Districts are free from bribery, black money, benami property, disproportionate assets, tax evasion, money laundering, profiteering, hoarding, adulteration, human and drug trafficking, black marketing, corporate fraud, capital market fraud, forensic fraud and dishonest misappropriation of property by cheating, fraud & forgery. Due to weak anti-corruption laws, even our one district is not free from land mafias, drug-liquor mafias, mining mafias, hospital mafias, transfer-posting mafias, betting mafias, tender mafias, hawala mafias, school-coaching mafias, infiltration mafias, conversion mafias, superstition-black magic mafias and white-collar political mafias, who divides our society on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex and place of birth.
● Injury caused to people is very large because corruption is an insidious plague, having a wide range of corrosive effects on society. Due to very weak anti-corruption laws, India ranked 85 in Corruption Perception Index 2021. It confirms India’s poor performance on many fronts viz. absence of corruption, fundamental rights, open government, public order and security, regulatory enforcement and civil and criminal justice system. Corruption has devastating effects on the right to life, liberty, dignity and equality, badly affects social economic justice, fraternity, dignity of individual, unity and national integration and offends other fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14-21.
● Corruption undermines democracy and rule of law, leads to violations of human rights, distorts markets, erodes quality of life and allows organized crime like separatism terrorism naxalism radicalism gambling smuggling kidnapping money laundering and extortion and other threats to human security to flourish. It hurts EWS-BPL families excessively by diverting the funds intended for their development, undermines government’s ability to provide basic services, seeds inequality and injustice and discourages foreign aids and investment. Corruption is a key factor in economic underperformance and main obstacle in poverty alleviation. Right to life-liberty guaranteed under Article 21 cannot be secured and the golden goals of Preamble cannot be achieved without curbing corruption. So, the Centre and State must implement the stringent anti-corruption laws in order to give a strong message that it is determined to weed-out corruption, black money generation, benami transactions and money laundering. The Centre must take steps to reaffirm the rule of law, improve transparency and to warn looters that betrayal of public trust will no longer be tolerated.
● The injury to BPL families is large because corruption distorts and disrupts the public distribution system. It is inimical to fostering excellence and has adverse impact on BPL group. Due to corruption, even after 75 years of independence, 50% of the population is in distress, leading hand-to-mouth existence and not knowing where the next meal is coming from with abominable health standards and education levels. Much of this malaise is traceable to extensive black money and benami transaction. There is no country in the top 50 of the Human Development Index, which has a significant amount of corruption. There is a correlation between the welfare State with attention to education, public health and absence of corruption. So, Centre & State must take steps to confiscate 100% black money benami properties and disproportionate assets and award life imprisonment to looters.
● The cause of action accrued on 24.1.2022 when Transparency International put India at 85 in Corruption Perception Index.
● Due to outdated rubbish laws, none of the welfare schemes and government departments are corruption free and this is the reason, India ranked
1st in fresh water withdrawal, illegal gun ownership, homeless population and illegal immigration,
2nd in intentional homicides and traffic related deaths,
3rd in CO2 emission and
4th in slavery index.
Due to massive corruption, India ranked
43 in Quality-of-Life Index,
51 in Democracy Index,
68 in Rule of Law Index,
84 in Air Quality Index,
102 in Hunger Index,
115 in Human Capital Index,
130 in Life Expectancy Index,
134 in Youth Development Index,
136 in Global Peace Index,
139 in GDP Per Capita,
142 in Press Freedom Index,
144 in World Happiness Index,
145 in Education Index,
168 in Literacy Rate and
177 in the Environment Performance Index.
But the Centre and State have not amended the anti-corruption laws and policies.
● Cash transaction in high value currency is used for illegal activities - terrorism, naxalism, separatism, radicalism, gambling, smuggling, money laundering, kidnapping, extortion, bribing and dowry etc. It also inflates prices of essential commodities as well as major assets like real estate, gold etc. Hence, these problems can be curbed by recalling currency above 100, restricting cash transaction above 5000, linking assets above 50,000 with AADHAAR, confiscating 100% black money, benami property and disproportionate assets and awarding life imprisonment. These 5 steps will weed-out corruption & black money. Another benefit is that the looters would be forced to declare their unaudited fixed-movable assets and deposit their cash in banks; thus, not only Centre but also States and Local Bodies will get sufficient revenue, which can be used to develop good quality infrastructure and best facilities throughout the country and for welfare of the citizens.
● If Centre recalls currency above Rs. 100/-, restricts cash transaction above Rs. 5,000/-, links assets above Rs. 50,000/- with AADHAAR, confiscate 100% disproportionate assets, award life imprisonment to looters, it will lead to an increment of 2% GDP. It will also clean elections, which is dominated by black-money benami transactions and thrives on a cycle of black investments, capture of power through foul means, use of political strength to amass wealth, with disdain of the citizen. There may be some inconvenience for a short period and politicians who have black money benami property disproportionate assets may focus on the distress to common man, but not even one honest citizen will lose his savings and nothing will get confiscated.
● India’s anti-corruption laws are very weak and ineffective and failed to control corruption. The Benami Transactions Act, passed in 1988 was gathering dust without action. Though the present government added some teeth to it, activities to catch benami properties are still going very slow.
● Benefits of recalling currency above 100, restricting cash transaction above 5,000, linking assets above 50,000 with AADHAAR and confiscating cent percent benami properties-disproportionate assets and awarding life imprisonment are:
(i) clean-transparent economy
(ii) 20% more revenue for Centre States Local Bodies
(iii) 20% drop in commodity prices
(iv) bank loan at 5% annual interest rate
(v) 10% reduction in construction and infrastructure cost
(vi) 50% reduction in terrorism separatism and fundamentalism
(vii) 50% reduction in casteism communalism linguism regionalism and 20% more subsidy to EWS-BPL families
(viii) world class infrastructure across the country
(ix) 20% growth in industry agriculture and service sector
(x) significant growth in employment
(xi) more social security benefits for citizens
(xii) focus shift from tax manipulation to innovation
(xiii) business will become globally competitive
(xvi) better rule of law
(xv) security of right to life, liberty and dignity.
The petitioner also cited a list of prisoners, sentenced for more than 100 years, like -
- Mexico (2012) - 2,035 years
José Luis González González convicted of repeated fraud starting in 2000. Longest sentence ever handed in Mexico.
- Thailand (1989) - 141,078 years
World's longest sentence for corporate fraud according to Guinness World Records 2006.
Chamoy Thipyaso defrauded more than 16,000 Thais in a pyramid scheme worth $204 million at time.
- USA (1994) - 11,250 years
Darron Bennalford Anderson found guilty of larceny, robbery and kidnapping, sentenced to 2,250 years. He was reconvicted, re-sentenced and received an additional jail term of 9,500 years, later reduced by 500 years.
The prayers of the petition are as follows:
- To direct the Centre and State to ascertain the feasibility of confiscating cent percent black money, benami property, disproportionate assets and awarding life imprisonment in offences relating to black money, benami property, money laundering, disproportionate assets, bribery, profiteering, hoarding, adulteration, black marketing, human-drug trafficking, tax evasion and dishonest misappropriation of property by cheating fraud forgery (like America Singapore China);
- Alternatively, being custodian of Constitution and protector of fundamental rights, the Court may constitute an expert committee or direct the Law Commission of India to examine the most stringent anti-corruption laws of the developed countries, particularly the laws relating to bribery, black money, benami property, disproportionate assets, tax evasion, money laundering, profiteering, hoarding, adulteration, human and drug trafficking, black marketing, dishonest misappropriation of property by cheating fraud forgery, and prepare a comprehensive report within three months.
- To pass such other order(s) as the Court may deem fit and proper.