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Centre gives full list of 627 names to Supreme Court

Black money: Won’t reveal names, don’t want to embarrass, says court.

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Complying with the Supreme Court’s order, the government on Wednesday placed before the court the complete list of 627 Indians who have accounts in HSBC Bank, Geneva. Stating that almost half these names are under tax probe for allegedly stashing black money abroad, the government said charges have to be filed by March next year.

As directed by the court on Tuesday, the documents containing names of the account holders, correspondence with French authorities and the status report of the probe conducted so far in the black money case were submitted in separate sealed covers by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi. The court said it would not make the names public at this juncture.

ALSO READ: Government says its hands tied, defers tax treaty signing 

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Appearing before a bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu, Rohatgi said almost half the account holders were resident Indians, who could be prosecuted under the Income Tax laws, while the others were NRIs. Some have already admitted that they have accounts and have paid taxes, he said.

The bench, also comprising Justices Ranjana P Desai and Madan B Lokur, said the court would not have asked for the entire list if the government had not opposed its directive to disclose everything.

“All this problem did not start because we wanted the list but because you came out with an unnecessary application asking for modification of our original order of 2011. We had already told you that our only concern is to get the black money back,” said the bench.

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“We don’t want to open these papers and embarrass anyone. That has never been our intention. You should not have pressed this application of yours, especially after petitioner-in-person senior advocate Mr Ram Jethmalani made those sarcastic remarks against you when you mentioned the new plea,” it said.

The bench was referring to the government’s application that sought modification of the 2011 order to enable it to release only selective information about account holders under probe.

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The court said it had already constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to look into the case. “The SIT knows its job. They are not laymen. They may devise their own procedure if required. We had to ask you to give us the list because you filed this application. They will decide whether Income Tax or CBI or Enforcement Directorate need to probe,” it said.

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Rohatgi conceded that that the government’s intent was perhaps “misunderstood” and he would not press his application anymore in the court.

The court directed that the documents be sent to the SIT, to be opened only by Chairman M B Shah and Vice-Chairman Arijit Pasayat, both former judges of the Supreme Court who are part of the SIT.

Asking the SIT to submit a status report by November-end, the bench said the SIT would proceed in accordance with the law and could also evolve its own procedure with regard to the future course of investigation.

Rohatgi said the entire list had already been given to the SIT on June 27, but the court retorted: “We don’t even know if the list that you have given to us is the same list that you have given to the SIT. It now for them to verify everything… it is for the SIT to now make use of these documents.”

The next hearing of the case has been scheduled for December 3.

First published on: 30-10-2014 at 12:05:59 am
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