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SC keen on bringing back black money

Source: PTI
January 20, 2015 21:02 IST
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The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it was more interested in getting the black money stashed abroad back to the country than the disclosure of names of illegal account holders in foreign banks.

"We are interested in money coming back and not on disclosure of names," a bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu said when arguments were advanced that the government should disclose the names of those who have admitted having illegal accounts in foreign banks.

However, the Bench, also comprising Justices M B Lokur and A K Sikri, accepted the plea of noted jurist Ram Jethmalani, one of the petitioners in the matter, that the apex court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by its Chairman Justice M B Shah and Vice Chairman Justice Arijit Pasayat, consider the various suggestions put forth to bring back illegal black money stashed abroad.

"We permit all parties including the intervenors to bring to the notice of the SIT their suggestions within two weeks from today and if such suggestions are given in time, we only request the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the SIT to consider the same in accordance with law and send a copy of the report to that aspect to this court in a sealed cover," it said.

The bench clarified that it was not saying anything on the suggestions put forward by Jethmalani in his fresh application and it was for the SIT to consider those.

Jethmalani's counsel and senior advocate Anil Divan alleged that "not a single rupee has come to this country" in last six months and only some searches and attachment have been conducted.

The apex court also granted three weeks time to Divan to file reply to the stand of the Centre which has so far shown unwillingness to share documents concerning its correspondence with French government on the issue.

The Centre has taken a stand in its reply in this regard that it has submitted all documents and communications to the SIT which has to take a call for supplying them to the petitioners.

The issue concerns list of 627 Indians who have accounts in HSBC Bank, Geneva, in which tax probe for suspected black money has to be completed by March 31 and was placed before the apex court on October 29 last year.

The documents containing correspondence with French authorities, names of the account holders and the status report of the probe conducted so far were submitted in separate sealed covers by the Attorney General which the apex court had not opened.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi submitted that despite the Centre considering the issue of black money, the petitioners were raking it up by filing application after application.

He said whatever names have cropped in the probe "we are bringing them and the cases in which the prosecution has been launched and the names been disclosed." He said all income tax assessments relating to the accounts of Indians in HSBC bank, Geneva, would be completed by March end.

However, Divan and advocate Prashant Bhushan, who is an intervenor in the matter, demanded that the publication of the names would act as deterrent and put fear into those having stashed the money abroad and chanellised into drugs, terrorism and human trafficking.

Divan said that international investigative journalists have published some 1,200 names of Indian account holders. However, the court asserted that it would not order disclosure of the names and the issue was to bring back the money.

Divan, in the fresh application containing suggestions on the steps to be taken to bring back the illegal moneys stashed aboard, cited three important documents available in public domain, viz., article written by Ajit Doval, present National Security Advisor, Task Force report submitted to BJP and the current administration's manifesto, on the steps to be taken to bring back illegal black money stashed aboard.

In brief, he said steps have been recommended to enact suitable legislation vesting all unauthorized accounts held by Indians in foreign tax havens in the Central government which should suo motu register an omnibus criminal case against the suspected unidentified persons who have been indulging in criminal activities and unauthorisedly transferring money to tax havens abroad. 

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