The Supreme Court on Wednesday lashed out at the UPA government for its “inaction” in bringing back black money it said is stashed in foreign bank accounts and “destroying the economy”.
Throwing out the government’s plea to disband the Special investigation Team set up by the court in 2011, a bench led by Justice H L Dattu came down heavily on it for “doing nothing” to retrieve black money from foreign tax havens “except for filing a report in the sealed cover in the last three years”.
“What have you done? Except for filing one report, you have done nothing. This court does not want black money in its own pocket. It took the cudgel only in the interest of the nation and its economy. This court considered that in the economic interest of this country that the black money lying in foreign banks should be brought back,” the bench told Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran.
“The feeling of this court is money is lying in foreign bank. Per capita income of the country would have gone up, had those money been brought back…up to 30 per cent of the tax burden on common man could come down,” the bench asserted.
Parasaran had urged the bench to dissolve the SIT, saying it was an unworkable mechanism without jurisdiction. Arguing for the recall of the July 4, 2011 order by Justice B Sudershan Reddy, he expressed difficulties in complying with the order, which said the SIT should work under two retired SC judges and investigate and prosecute “all” cases of black money, even tracking and bringing back black money from abroad.
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The bench, however, questioned the government’s seriousness in bringing back black money. “Instead of giving you a handle, this court set up a SIT headed by a former SC judge. Can we say it was such a grave mistake that we have to modify our orders? What ends of justice recalling our order will serve? Since you failed, the court appointed a SIT. To serve the ends of justice, we should reject your application,” the court said.
Parasaran contested the court’s views.
He referred to investigations against Pune-based stud farm owner Hasan Ali Khan and businessman Kashinath Taparia in connection with black money cases. He said SIT monitoring must stop since it was without jurisdiction, especially in cases where diplomatic channels between countries were involved to find the tainted money.
The bench, however, asked the Solicitor General why the government opposed continuance of the SIT if it was taking all necessary steps.
“This is not an usual matter. Since 1947, nobody thought for 65 years to bring the money stashed in foreign banks to the country.
Government has failed in its role for 65 years. If you had undertaken the exercise there was no need for a continuous mandamus and we would have not stepped in,” it said.
Justifying the SIT’s role, the court said it could ignore the government organisation “if it loses faith in it”.
“At the end of the day this court wants that the black money stashed in foreign bank is accounted for…it said the area in which you failed, let it be achieved by us. We would be the last person to say that we have failed. We would try our best to achieve our purpose. Let us see if the SIT could do what the court is dreaming about,” it said.
The bench also made it clear that if the SIT faced difficulties negotiating with foreign governments, it could approach the court.
Wednesday’s court hearing by a three-judge bench brought the case back into the limelight after it had remained on the back-burner for more than a year, waiting for an appropriate bench to be constituted.