Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Supreme Court on black money

Supreme Court has made caustic comments on the government's disregard for the former's judgment delivered in July, 2011 for appointment of a Special Investigation Team and for taking steps against black money.

Seriousness of these comments is explicit from the following report:

"Centre faces ire of Supreme Court on blackmoney
22 Apr 2014, 2046 hrs IST, AGENCIES
The Centre on Tuesday (April 22) faced the ire of the Supreme Court for failing to implement its three-year-old directions including setting up of a SIT to probe all cases of black money and disclosing information received from Germany about individuals stashing money in Liechtenstein Bank. "It is totally contempt of our directions," a bench headed by Justice H L Dattu said while disapproving the contention of Solicitor General(SG) Mohan Parasaran that all the directions in July 4, 2011 judgement were inter-connected and disclosure of names received from Germany was to be done after the investigation by the Special Investigation Team (SIT).

"In our view the judgement has to be read disjunctively and not conjectively," the bench, also comprising justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and Madan B Lokur, said. "We have to take the statement of Solicitor General with a pinch of salt," it said and added that "We are not satisfied with the explanation of the SG". Parasaran had submitted that since investigation was being done by so many authorities, the Centre was to disclose names against whom show cause notices have been issued after the SIT probe.

Disagreeing with him, the bench said, "This has nothing to do with the SIT. Today we are very clear that you have to give the documents and information received from Germany about the account holders in Liechtenstein Bank. "Secondly, the investigation has to be taken over by the SIT. Thirdly, you have to disclose the names of those against whom show cause notices have been issued," the bench said while referring to its July 4, 2011 directions in which it was stated that the Centre had to "forthwith" comply with its order.

The bench was also surprised that three years after its direction it was informed today that its former judge, Justice B P Jeevan Reddy, who was appointed to head the 13-member SIT, had expressed his inability by a letter dated August 15, 2011 to lead the team which was reiterated by him through another letter of April 18, 2014 addressed to the Joint Secretary, Revenue Department. "How all of a sudden this letter has surfaced. We are surprised that August 15, 2011, letter did not surface in previous occasion," the bench said, referring to both the letters in which Justice Reddy only expressed his willingness to provide guidance and directions to the SIT.

The bench asked both the Centre and petitioners which included eminent jurist Ram Jethmalani to discuss and come out with the name of a former apex court judge who would agree to head the SIT. However, it clarified that the judge should be senior to former apex court judge M B Shah, who has been appointed Vice Chairman of the SIT. "Before constituting the SIT, the court was in touch with Justice Jeevan Reddy. Now both of you in consultation can come out with a common name so that it does not create any ripples and before mentioning the name, have a word with the judge. We don't want to suggest name of any judge," the bench said.

While posting the matter on April 29, the bench asked the Solicitor General to take proper instruction from the Revenue Secretary and also respond "What prevented them (Centre) to comply with the directions." Parasaran said he will come back at the next hearing after checking from Finance Ministry on what information can be shared by the Centre as per its agreement with respective countries on the information received on the issue of black money.

When the bench told the SG it was hearing the application filed by Jethmalani and others that the Centre has not complied with the order of disclosing the names of the account holders in Liechtenstein Bank, he said it can't be done unless the SIT is constituted. While the bench disagreed with him, senior advocate Anil Divan, appearing for Jethmalani said, "The direction is that the Union of India will forthwith give information, documents and materials received from Germany".

"If no stay is granted, the order has to be implemented. There is no stay of July 4, 2011 directions," he argued. Concurring with his arguments, the bench said, "You (Centre) are directed by the court to disclose names, materials received from Germany to petitioners and SIT will take over and carry out further investigation." The bench said the Centre's prayers are disjuncted and there were positive directions in July 4, 2011 judgement which stated "forthwith" and it does not mean that the information has to be disclosed after the SIT probe.

Further, the bench said earlier there was a review petition against the July 4, 2011 judgement which was dismissed and under its garb, the Centre avoided implementing its directions. The Supreme Court on March 26 had rejected the Centre's plea to recall its order for SIT to probe all cases of black money, saying it stepped in as for over six decades "the government failed to bring back the money stashed in foreign banks to the country".

Jethmalani had filed an application seeking directions to the government "to file list of names of those having accounts in Liechtenstein Bank with respect of whom investigations have been concluded, either partially or wholly, and show cause notices issued and proceedings initiated". He alleged that after July 4, 2011 judgement, “No steps have been taken by the respondents (Centre and its ministry concerned) in compliance with the directions of the apex court". "The respondents have brazenly and willfully flouted the directions of this court," he said."

Government's shameless efforts to protect the owners of black money are appalling.

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