The ghost of demonetization, now known as Notebandi, refuses to go as apprehensions of another similar drive loom large. And if experts 'convincing' opinions are given a serious thought then the 'expected' phase two of the Notebandi could be a lot worse. This phase two could hit peace of common masses any time, but it's certain that it is going to happen.
Let me explain the reason/s why Notebandi – 2 is coming and would be much stronger in impact.
The demonetization process set in motion during the intervening night of November 8 & 9, 2016 was to sweep your cash in hand in a bid to unearth black money. But the government simply failed and twisted the phase 1 of the Notebandi as a huge step towards digital India where almost all big or small transactions are conducted electronically and use of cash is discouraged. But this time, The government could lay hand on your every asset you own through the operation of Notebandi -2. The asset could be your immovable property (like your piece of land and residential house) and your gold/jewelry etc.
A step in this direction has already been taken by the government by proposing to amend section 132 of the Income Tax Act in the recent budget. Notably, most of the experts while analyzing the union budget 2017 called it a 'balanced budget' loaded with some tax-relief. But the proposed tax amendment didn't get highlighted which otherwise contains a huge impact on everybody's life.
While speaking on the subject with those who are experts in tax matters, the proposed amendment is going to give sweeping powers to taxman as are vested to security forces to search any house and confiscate anything without assigning any reason. The alarming intensity of the proposed amendment made me to turn to the relevant pages of the Income Tax Act.
What's this Section 132 of the Income Tax (IT) Act? Section 132 of the Income Tax Act gives income tax authorities "search and seizure" powers. Any person who may be in possession of documents, accounts or properties, which after notice have not been disclosed to the authorities or are likely to not be disclosed, will be subject to such search and seizure powers listed under Section 132.
However, the assessing authority should have "reason to believe" that the individual on whom notice has been served, as well as those who have not been served notice, will in all likelihood not disclose their books or produce documents, accounts or properties as required by the income tax authorities.
Further, if a search and seizure measure is challenged before an appellate authority or tribunal, it will be imperative for income tax officials to effectively prove, beyond doubt, the reasoning or belief that led to such a measure.
It is evident that the term "reason to believe" written into Section 132 of the Income Tax Act constitutes a statutory restraint.
But this safeguard will not remain there by virtue of the proposed change to the existing provisions of Section 132. As per an amendment in the Bill, an explanation will be added under the fourth proviso of Section 132(1) of the Act.
This explanation, which supplements the section, states:
"For removal of doubts, it is hereby declared that the reason to believe, as recorded by the Income Tax authority, under this subsection shall not be disclosed to any person or any authority or the appellate tribunal."
This gives a whole new meaning to Section 132. It not only removes the only check placed on the powers to be exercised by the income tax authorities, it also tilts the balance in favour of officials.
The proposed amendment simply means that the Income Tax officials will enter and search your house, office, or business establish without giving any reason. They can seize your gold, silver, jewelry, cash, or other valuable articles without giving any reason. they can even lay hand on your book of accounts and other documents of your importance.
So, once the proposed amendments are passed, Operation Notebandi – 2 is inevitable. It would be a scathing attack on every individuals' right to privacy and control over their property. One wonders how all this is going to help the government to clean the mess in the country's financial system. However, the only thing you as a common man and honest citizen could do is to remain updated about all the ways the government could come after your money and the assets you own.
Meantime, these arbitrary changes which gives sweeping powers in the hands of bureaucrats and taxmen need to be blocked. The government should reconsider these amendments and stop anti-people operations under the cover of fighting black money .
(The views are of the author & not the institution he works for)