London: The protocol signed by India and Switzerland to amend their existing Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) so as to facilitate information sharing on black money stashed away in Swiss banks may come into force by the end of this year, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said.

"We have signed a protocol amending the existing Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement with Switzerland last August. As per their law and Constitution, their international agreements are to be ratified by both houses of Parliament and local authorities,” he said.

"The ratification by the two houses are over. Ratification by local authorities may be over by the end of this year," Mukherjee told newsmen at India House here on Monday evening.

Answering a question on BJP President Nitin Gadkari's demand for the resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P Chidambaram following a certain statement by former Telecom Minister A Raja -- who is under arrest and faces charges in connection to alleged irregularities in the award of 2G spectrum -- Mukherjee said, "I don't know what evidence Raja has given, apart from making a statement. The matter is before the court and it is for the court to decide."

Raja told a Delhi court hearing the 2G case on Monday that Chidambaram, then Finance Minister, had told the Prime Minister that dilution of shares by 2G licencees to attract FDI did not amount to sale of licence. Gadkari had subsequently demanded the resignation of Singh and Chidambaram, stating that what Raja said in court showed that the top leadership of the government was aware of all 2G transactions.

Replying to another question on whether Raja had consulted him on the 2G spectrum issue, Mukherjee, who was heading the Group of Ministers, said, "I was involved in resolving the issue -- spectrum to be vacated by Ministry of Defence."

"There were divergent views. I was heading the External Affairs Ministry and I resolved the issue by making the Defence Ministry to vacate certain quantum of spectrum," he said.

Asked whether the government would be investigating the Rupert Murdoch issue in India, Mukherjee said, "If we receive any complaints in India we will look into them. What happens in other countries is left to them to decide."

The High Commissioner of India to the UK, Nalin Surie, and Deputy High Commissioner Rajesh Prasad were also present on the occasion.

Earlier, addressing a joint press conference with Britain's Chancellor of Exchequer George Osborne, Mukherjee said India plans to double its exports in the next years to reach USD 500 billion.

"The government has announced a manufacturing policy to increase the share of manufacturing from the present 16 percent to a level of 25 percent of the GDP over the next decade," he said.

He added there are significant opportunities for British investment in India, particularly in the infrastructure space.

"There are also opportunities for British investment... in the areas of science and technology, food processing, agriculture sector, energy security, including collaboration in renewable energy sources, higher education and culture," he said.

Switzerland likely to clear tax treaty with India without referendum

The revised Indo-Swiss tax treaty, which will allow India to seek secret bank account details from January 1 this year, is expected to be approved without a national referendum in Switzerland, a top Swiss official said.

"My feelings tell me that there will be no need for a referendum," said Swiss Ambassador to India Philippe Welti.

The revised Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) between the two nations, that would allow India to seek details about its citizens having unaccounted money in Swiss banks, was approved by Switzerland's Parliament on June 17.

After ratification by Parliament, the treaty is open to scrutiny by Swiss people for 100 days, which ends on October 6. If there is an opposition to the agreement, then the same would be subject to a national referendum.

"If I am proven right, it means that after October 7, we will inform the Indian government that we (Swiss government) are ready for exchange of information," Welti said.

Amid raging debate over the issue of black money stashed overseas, latest figures from Swiss National Bank show that total deposits of Indian individuals and companies with all the Swiss banks was collectively about USD 2.5 billion at the end of 2010.
India can seek bank account details for cases dating from January 1, 2011, provided the treaty coming into effect this year.

In Switzerland, the financial year starts from January 1.

India had inked an agreement with Switzerland to revise the DTAA in August 2010. Once in force, the treaty would allow India to seek information for cases related to tax evasion also.

Under the existing treaty with Switzerland, India could only seek bank information related to tax fraud cases.

"From the technical point of view, it has now become easier to file requests because Swiss government has relaxed technical requirements for requests," Welti noted.

(Agencies)