Acting on an idea mooted by outgoing finance minister P Chidambaram, the government Friday succeeded in getting a week more from the Supreme Court to notify and activate a special investigation team (SIT) to monitor all black money cases.
A bench of Justices B S Chauhan and A K Sikri granted a week more on a request by the Solicitor General, who said the notification for the SIT was ready but all subsequent orders had to be issued by the new dispensation at the Centre. The time to notify the SIT expired on Thursday.
The Indian Express has accessed the letter written by Chidambaram to the outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wherein he advised that the constitution of the SIT should await the new government.
“A new government will be in place shortly after May 16. The question is whether the present government should constitute the SIT as directed by the Supreme Court or should the matter await the hearing and disposal of the review petition or should the matter be left to the new government. I request the Prime Minister’s guidance in the matter,” the letter written on May 6 said.
In his letter, Chidambaram also raised serious questions over the SC order on constituting the SIT under the chairmanship of a retired apex court judge and said the review petition should be immediately filed by the government against this order. The disputed order was passed by a three-judge bench led by Justice H L Dattu on a petition by senior advocate Ram Jethmalani.
Chidambaram wrote: “I am of the view that the matter raises serious issues involving interpretation of the Constitution of India and the separation of powers between the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary. The review petition has raised many important questions of law which deserve to be considered by a larger bench of the Supreme Court.
“However, it is unlikely that the review petition will be heard and/or disposed of before May 22 (deadline for SIT). The Solicitor General is being requested to file the review petition immediately and to mention it before the three-judge bench for listing.”
It is after Chidambaram’s letter that the PMO decided to go ahead with the review petition and also sought extension of time for setting up the SIT.
Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran contended before the bench Friday that the future course of action regarding compliance with the SC order should be left to the new government. His application had pleaded for two weeks’ extension but he negotiated on one week eventually. The bench, which had earlier refused to hear the review petition, agreed to extend the deadline by one week while clarifying that it was not modifying or changing the three-judge bench order.
Meanwhile, the bench also directed that all documents relating to black money cases must be kept in safe custody of a secretary-level officer of revenue department after Jethmalani alleged that some of the “vital” documents were destroyed in a fire at Shastri Bhawan. Prasaran, however, had refuted Jethmalani’s claims, saying all documents are kept at North Block and not at Shastri Bhawan.
The apex court had on May 1 directed the Centre to hand over within three days all documents and information collected by it in its probe in the cases of alleged stashing of black money in LST bank in Liechtenstein, Germany, to Jethmalani and others who raised the issue before it. It had then also directed the Centre to issue notification regarding their appointment of SIT within three weeks.
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