On a wing

The Union finance ministry’s decision to set up a specialised wing to probe financial crimes is obviously in response to the spate of scandals and irregularities that have recently come to public view. The government is under considerable political heat after many big cases of corruption, tax evasion and fraud were revealed in the last few months. It is also under pressure from the Supreme Court to act on some of these cases and to unearth the large amounts of black money circulating in the country and stashed away abroad. The failure of official investigating agencies to investigate the cases effectively and to take action against wrong-doers has been glaring. The idea seems to be that a new agency is needed for more effective and expeditious action.

The plan is to create a wing called the directorate of criminal investigation in the income tax department which will have powers like those enjoyed by the Enforcement Directorate and the CBI to investigate and prosecute cases. Terror financing, money laundering and black money call for specialised and multi-agency investigation and the new section will be equipped with necessary financial, forensic and legal expertise to handle cases. Financial crimes have become more sophisticated and complicated and have acquired more international dimensions now. But it must be noted that it was not always the lack of expertise and manpower that has hampered investigations in such cases in the past. There are adequate laws also under which the best action ca n be taken and violators brought to book. In most cases it was lack of commitment and sincerity that was at the root of the failure of investigative agencies to book big-time culprits. Political interference is another major factor. The new section should not be hampered by these constraints and should be given a free hand to pursue its brief.

Lack of co-ordination among investigative agencies has resulted in failure of investigations. Since many of the big-ticket financial frauds involve national security, the new wing will have to work in tandem with security agencies. In the case of security there have been serious lapses. Promises to improve the working of security agencies have not always been followed up. That should not be the case with the new proposal. The government will earn full credit for setting up a new investigative wing only if it produces results.

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