The Supreme Court of India issued a very unique order on Monday when it directed a Special Investigating Team be set up to monitor the investigation into the issue of black money.
Former judges say this order is a commendable one and the intention was obvious that it wanted to set up a body which is independent of any political interference.
Justice M F Saldanha, former judge of the Karnataka and Bombay high courts says that the Supreme Court does appoint panels to oversee matters and the order that was passed was very much within the right and powers of the Supreme Court. However setting up an SIT is unusual in nature since the Supreme Court has not done something of this sort before.
He gives his opinion on the setting up of the SIT
"Here the Supreme Court has made its intentions very clear. They have clearly stated through this order that they do not trust anyone to monitor the investigation. Usually the Supreme Court in earlier cases has said that it would monitor the investigation directly and the investigating agency would report to it. However, now what it has done it has set up an exclusive body which would monitor the on going investigation. This body is independent of any agency and would report exclusively to the Supreme Court.
"In the case of black money the allegation is that each and every political party has some stake in it and the court took into account that precious little was happening because of this.
"What setting up an SIT would do is have a dedicated body to the case. The situation where black money is concerned is grave and hence such a body was needed. It is unusual and innovative on part of the Supreme Court.
"The SIT appointed by the Supreme Court would act as a watch dog. Although it would only monitor investigations, it would still have powers to order the investigating agency the manner in which the probe needs to be conducted. More importantly it can pull up and also question the investigating agency about the probe and also ask it to look in the direction it wants it to. It can call for records and also direct the investigating agency to speed up the probe.
"However, this body would have to report to the Supreme Court from time to time and can only disclose details regarding the probe to the court. It all depends on how the Supreme Court handles this committee. The government as we have seen in the past is quite capable of frustrating the process and the Supreme Court as well as the SIT will have to deal with these aspects.
"One needs to wait and watch whether this innovation by the Supreme Court would work or not. But I must add that it is a very important and innovative order on part of the court.
"This team would be slightly different when compared to the rest of the committees appointed by the Supreme Court. The other committees have been more of fact finding institutions which go into issues by itself and rely on the rest of the agencies. However the SIT is an independent body which will be an authority over all the agencies which are looking into the issue of black money. Basically one would have to say that the jurisdiction of this SIT is very vast."