Noted jurist Ram Jethmalani on Tuesday accused in the Supreme Court the National Democratic Alliance government and the previous United Progressive Alliance dispensation of failure to bring back black money stashed abroad and criticised leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on the issue.
"I am suspecting wrong (done) by both the sides and the fraud has been perpetuated by both the sides," he told a bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu during a hearing on a petition filed by him and others on the issue of black money.
Jethmalani did not spare Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his close aide and BJP President Amit Shah accusing them of failing on poll promise of bringing back the illegal money.
He said that this was "amply clear" from Shah's interview to a TV channel on February 5, 2015 when he stated that Modi's promise to bring back the black money during his election campaign in 2014 was a "political jumla (platitude)".
"There has been no retraction of this statement by Shah. There has been no retraction of this statement by the department of finance. There has been no retraction of this statement by the president.
"The presumption is that the two gentlemen, the party (BJP) president and the prime minister, are in concurrence with each other," he told the bench also comprising justices M B Lokur and A K Sikri before which the Special Investigation Team placed its third report on the progress of investigations in the sealed cover.
"It shocks me, a person who is fighting black money since April, 2009, and I had referred to Modi as an 'avatar'," he said referring to the poll promise made by Modi.
Jethmalani also attacked Finance Minister Arun Jaitley without taking his name by saying that "the innocent finance minister" has been quoted as saying that India has not identified any tax heaven. He said that this was in contrast to what was stated by Pranab Mukherjee, who during his tenure as finance minister in the UPA government, had issued a white paper in which he claimed that India has identified 45 tax heavens. "I call this as black paper on black money," he said as an aside.
"This is circumstantial evidence that something is wrong. These people are not ashamed of what they are doing," he said. He also assailed the working of the SIT saying, "The SIT is loaded with people who are loyal to the previous government".
Jethmalani was particularly severe on the Central Board of Direct Taxation chairperson Anita Kapur, who ex officio became a member of the SIT by virtue of the apex court order. He alleged that as joint secretary in the finance ministry she had handed over 17 letters/correspondences with foreign authorities and in them, the names of authors and adressees were blacked out.
"Most of the 17 letters are signed by her. The tragedy of the nation is that the government has kept those persons who were party to the previous government and they are in the SIT and they are loyal to their masters and not to the country," he said.
However, when Jethmalani was making allegations against the CBDT chairperson including that she was not handing over him the documents, the bench said she cannot be blamed for that "because we directed SIT to give documents." "You cannot be asking Anita Kapur to give it to you. You can ask to SIT. You cannot be approaching Anita Kapur but to the SIT," the bench said.
Jethmalani said that he had to approach her only because the SIT had said that the documents were with the CBDT.
The bench also said since being the CBDT Chairperson, she automatically becomes a member of SIT, he should have brought it to the notice of the apex court if there was any objection.
Jethmalani said he was frustrated over the alleged fraud played by the present NDA government and submitted that he was sharing that with the court because he was fighting the battle for the people of the country.
"How much it cost me? What to share? My conscience says that the present government and the bureaucrats associated with it will not recover this black money.
"I am prepared to write a thesis on it and give it to my lords. The party president says it was an election 'jumla'. The promise to bring the black money was a big fraud...," he said.
Jethmalani said the July, 2011, judgement has been frustrated by successive governments which have played a "grave fraud" on the nation and the people.
He alleged that like the previous government, which "played a trick" by signing the UN Convention on Corruption without ratifying it, the present government was also not taking any effective steps to bring back the black money.
He said in July 2014, the Rajya Sabha was informed that amendment has been brought to the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements treaty with Switzerland, a tax heaven country, on the issue of sharing information on tax issues.
However, it was clarified that it was for future and no information would be shared about the past.
"This was a fraud and those who signed it must be interrogated and prosecuted," he said, adding that DTAT is for tax issues associated with businessmen and not for "dacoits and robbers".
"We have been asking information with Government, but why they are not willing," he said, referring to an open statement by German authorities who had announced to share information on illegal money stashed in foreign banks with friendly nations.
He referred to the procurement of 1,400 such names from one of the employees of the Liechtenstein bank.
"I am ashamed to say that neither anyone from the past government nor anyone who is in power now took pains to get the names," he said and claimed that German authorities told him that none from the country even the opposition during the eve of election campaign contacted them.
"We were in opposition and they agreed to give information. My request was for the people of the country," he said.
Image: Ram Jethmalani