Days after Supreme Court held privacy as a fundamental right, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today said a balance will now have to be struck between need for transparency and privacy and the ruling cannot be cited to shield information on suspicious cash spendings, including by politicians. Raising questions about what constitutes privacy, he said can a bureaucrat deny information on jewellery purchased by his wife under the shield of privacy of the lady. Similarly, he said, can a politician fighting elections use the privacy garb to deny information about family wealth.
The judgement exempts national security, crime detection and dissipation of social benefits from the purview of privacy, Jaitley added. “I believe these three are examples, these are not conclusive. They are only illustrative,” he said, adding that steps taken by the government to augment revenue realisation cannot be restricted in the name of privacy.
The Supreme Court in its verdict last week held right to privacy as a fundamental right. “For two decades we lived in era of transparency and court judgements were also in that direction. Now privacy has been added to transparency and hence keeping personal things secret has become a fundamental right,” Jaitley said at a lecture on transparency in political funding here.
He said the big issue that will emerge now is how to balance transparency and privacy. “Is there a contradiction (between the two)?… So the balancing, reconciliation between the two is necessary.”
Jaitley said if some person says that he will spend Rs 1 crore in cash but that the government has no right to know about it as it violates his privacy, then you are being dishonest to the country. “You keep violating the tax laws in the name of privacy … So transparency and sharing information becomes important in the interest of revenue generation,” he said.
With regard to political funding, Jaitley said he had announced electoral bonds scheme to cleanse the system. “We are trying to finalise that,” he said.
In a major move aimed at promoting transparency in political funding, the Finance Minister had in this year’s Budget speech announced capping of anonymous cash donations to political parties at Rs 2,000 and introduced electoral bonds.
As per the electoral bond mechanism announced in the Budget, the proposed bonds will resemble a promissory note and not an interest-paying debt instrument. They will be sold by authorised banks and can be deposited in notified accounts of political parties within the duration of their validity.
The bonds will not carry the name of the donor and routing of the money through banks will ensure that only tax paid money comes into the political system.