Express News Service
Posted online: Wednesday, March 19, 2008 at 0052 hrs IST
New Delhi, March 18: Reviewing the proposed overhaul of a 55-year-old law dealing with the collection of statistics in the country, the Parliamentary Committee on Finance has strongly advocated that those purveying wrong information to the Government should be simply imprisoned instead of levying monetary penalties on them.
The Collection of Statistics Bill, 2007, was introduced in Parliament last May, after the National Statistical Commission, headed by C Rangarajan, pointed out several limitations in the original law drafted in 1953. The original law was meant to collect input, output and employment information for the Annual Survey of Industries, but small-scale industries, the informal sector and services industries were out of its ambit.
Penalties for not furnishing the requisite data were meager — a Rs 500 fine with Rs 200 additional penalty for each day of non-compliance. The Rangarajan panel suggested that the existing law should be expanded to make it obligatory for individuals and enterprises to provide information for any survey done by the National Statistics Commission and penalise those refusing to supply information or giving wrong information.
While the new law proposes to enhance penalties to Rs 1,000-2,000 for individuals and Rs 5,000-10,000 for companies for furnishing false data, the Parliamentary Panel has opined that the law should have provisions for ‘simple imprisonment in the event of anyone furnishing false information’.
The Committee’s view stems from comments it received from the Steel Ministry over the proposed law. The ministry pointed out that the proposed penalties may not serve as a ‘deterrent’ and cited its experience with secondary steel producers. “There is a serious apprehension of underreporting or providing incorrect data from many such units for reasons including tax evasion,” the Steel Secretary wrote.
Further, the Steel Ministry explained that even the smallest producer would be happy paying the fine rather than part with the correct data. Interestingly, the ministry examined the Indian Penal Code and found that anyone furnishing false information to a public authority recognised by the IPC, can be imprisoned. Top officials in the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation admitted the need for such a provision in its interactions with the Parliament Panel.
The New Indian Express