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National
Black money: Supreme Court orders Centre to disclose all names
29-10-2014

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the Centre to disclose to it on Wednesday all the names being probed for allegedly stashing black money abroad and questioned why the government was “holding a protective umbrella for these people”.

Throwing a spanner in the case being heard for the past five years, a bench led by Chief Justice of India HL Dattu directed the government to hand over, in sealed cover, on Wednesday the lists of all the names received from foreign governments, irrespective of the nature of treaties between the countries. The court order came as a surprise since it was hearing a fresh application by the government for, in fact, restricting the disclosure.

“Don’t give us two or three names but all the names. Give us the entire list… whatever you have got from Germany, France, Switzerland and other countries. What you have disclosed could be a tip of the iceberg. This is going to be the first step now —disclose everything. We can’t leave the issue completely to you (government). It may never happen during our time,” said the bench, also comprising Justices Ranjana P Desai and Madan B Lokur.

The government had on Monday informed the court about three entities — two individuals and a mining company along with its five directors — who were being prosecuted under the Income Tax Act for allegedly keeping black money in foreign bank accounts.

The court also said that the government did not have to choose the manner and the mode of probe into the matter and all that it needed to do was to place everything before the court, which may also rope in CBI to investigate. The bench said the court had in 2011 issued orders for complete disclosure of information received from foreign governments and it would hence also take the responsibility of ensuring the case reaches its logical end.

“Why do you (government) want to investigate? You don’t have to take the trouble of investigating. Why are you bothered? Why are you holding a protective umbrella for these people? You just pass on all the information to us and we will decide. We can ask even CBI to investigate. We are not helpless. We had passed the original order in 2011 and we will take the responsibility now as well,” it said.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the bench that they have already given the names to the special investigation team (SIT), which was set up on the court’s orders, and that the investigations were on under the SIT’s supervision.

He urged the bench to modify the July 2011 order, asserting only those names where probe was over and the cases had been found prosecutable should be allowed to make public and not otherwise. The AG added it would also not be in congruity to disclose names that have been given a clean chit after probe.

The court, however, expressed its strong displeasure at the NDA government’s attempt to have its order modified. “You are trying to re-argue the matter which in our opinion is impermissible. We won’t change even a word of our order. Months after, the new regime at the Centre can’t ask for modification of order when it was passed in an open court and accepted by the government. Don’t give the names only to SIT but give them to us too,” it said.

Meanwhile, former Delhi Chief Minister and convener of the Aam Aadmi Party Arvind Kejriwal moved an application in the Supreme Court, seeking to be heard in the black money case. Kejriwal claimed he had personal knowledge of some people, who have stashed black money in their foreign bank accounts. He said he also had confessional statements made by three persons before the Income-Tax authorities. Kejriwal said these names had not been given to the court till date.