Undisclosed money holders again appear to be very important and fortunate people!
They have been offered indemnity for whitening their dirty money at a minimal "penalty" though the cost the state has to bear for this is very high.
The universal basic idea of indemnity is that one has to provide a satisfying explanation that their action was unintentional if they want to get indemnity.
But the legal coverage dirty money holders have been offered in the Finance Bill passed on Tuesday by parliament is opposite to the fundamental idea of indemnity.
Undisclosed money holders, according to the new legal provision, need not disclose the sources of their dirty money while whitening it by paying a certain amount of tax.
It is widely believed that sources of most undisclosed money are unlawful means such as corruption, extortions and bribes which are criminal offences and punishable under laws. So, the money is kept undisclosed in the tax return.
Yet, they were offered a special package allowing investment of untaxed money in the manufacturing industry in the next fiscal year on the condition of paying only a 10% tax.
In case of investment of such money in the stock market, they need to pay 25% regular tax plus a 5% penalty. They can also park dirty money as cash, bank deposits, and savings instruments on similar conditions.
Take note that a regular tax payer has to pay 25% tax on his/her income. A regular tax payer has to explain the source of their income in the return.
But black money holders are exempted from this legal obligation.
Can they claim that their actions through which they earned the dirty money were unintentional and based on good faith?
If anybody does something wrong without mala fide intention, he/she can get legal protection. Such provisions can be found in almost every law dealing with offences.
Then why do dirty money holders enjoy indemnity? Is it because they are financially influential?
There are more damaging sides of retaining the scope for money whitening.
It goes against the fundamental principle of the state policy stipulated in the constitution.
Take note of Article 20 (2) of the constitution that says the State shall endeavour to create conditions in which, as a general principle, persons shall not be able to enjoy unearned incomes.
So, the scope for money whitening also goes against the constitutional provision as the state itself is allowing a group of people to enjoy their "unearned" incomes.
And Parliament seems to have acted against the constitution and the fundamental principle of the state policy by making the legal provision for whitening money. For this, none of the MPs who voted to pass the Finance Bill incorporating the provision can shrug off responsibility.
The Speaker who presided over the parliament sitting during passage of the bill did not have anything to say though she is bound by oath to preserve, protect and defend the constitution.
It is unfortunate that the finance minister who proposed allowing money whitening again was also sworn in like other members of the cabinet to preserve, protect and defend the constitution.
He also took oath to "do right to all manners of people according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill will."
Did he deliver on his oath by proposing to allow whitening black money? Didn't he favour dirty money holders?
The defence for allowing money whitening is that it will increase investment resulting in economic growth.
But the negative impact of black money in an economy is enormous. Growth of the black economy causes a regressive distribution of income in the society. When black money grows faster, the rich become richer and the poor become poorer. The basic fabric of the rule of law has become loose.
Yet, black money holders have been given the privileges over the years, ignoring the outcry by legal experts and economists who advocate for good governance in the financial sector.
Experts say the size of black money in Bangladesh's economy keeps increasing because of lack of enforcement of laws to curb the sources of black money.
The show may go on in favour of black money holders for an indefinite period as the finance minister earlier boldly pronounced that the scope for whitening money will be continued as long as undisclosed money persists in the economy.
So, hail the dirty money holders!