January 15, 2011 3:20:52 am
The Supreme Court today questioned the governments reluctance to disclose the names of Indian nationals who have stashed black money in foreign banks,asking what is the big deal about it?
The apex court refused to be drawn into Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniums submission that the government was ready to share documents on the investigation with the court,but had reservations in revealing the details to any other person.
Forget about the documents. Tell us what privilege you are claiming for these names… Anyway,what is the big deal about disclosing the names? a Bench of Justices B Sudershan Reddy and S S Nijjar asked the Solicitor General,who represents the central government. Subramanium sought a weeks accommodation to consult the government.
The court is hearing a petition filed by senior advocate Ram Jethmalani and five others,including former Punjab DGP K P S Gill and former secretary general of Lok Sabha,Subhash Kashyap,contending that the government was not taking action to bring back black money,allegedly funnelled to bank accounts abroad.
The courts poser today follows a plea by Jethmalani that the government should share with the petitioners the list containing names of Indians operating secret accounts at Liechtenstein,a principality of Germany. The list is currently with the court in a sealed cover.
The information on the account holders was received by the Indian authorities between 2007 and 2008 from the German government,which had first blown the whistle on the fact that Indian citizens were among those they found operating secret accounts at LTG Bank in Leichtenstein.
Additional Solicitor General Parag Tripathi had earlier briefed the court that there were 26 account holders,including Trusts,from India.
The names of the individuals are before us. Why cannot we implead them in the case? We know their names, the court asked the SG.
To this,Subramanium expressed reservations about the fact that impleading or making the account holders parties in the current litigation would make their identities public and hamper the ongoing investigations. Even as the government law officer insisted that the government had wasted no time in taking action to look into the alleged tax avoidance,the court protested saying this was not just a case of tax avoidance but points to something more serious.
Then let us say money laundering, Subramanium said,adding that he was willing to file a status report on the investigation.
Arguing that these status reports by the government were only delay tactics to prolong the litigation,senior advocate Anil Diwan,appearing for Jethmalani,complained that the government has claimed blanket immunity over 16 of the total 21 documents with it.
They merely say the information is confidential,but do not explain what privilege these account holders enjoy, Diwan said.
He raised doubts over the governments delay in not having initiated action against the account holders under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act,2002.
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