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Supreme Court Pulls Centre over Black Money Issue
Oct 31, 2014

Sternly rejecting the Centre’s argument that revealing the identity of legal account holders would amount to breach of privacy, the Supreme Court said, “Don’t give us your list...but the names given to you by France and Germany. If it breaches confidentiality, let it be.” The court also turned down the government’s request that it modify its order seeking the names of all such account holders. The Centre had contended that the names should be revealed only after investigations proved the accounts indeed held black money and led to prosecution against tax evaders.

When Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi argued that a modification was imperative as the court order was acting as a hindrance in signing the court argued, “Why are you taking the trouble to investigate? We have taken the responsibility to bring back the (black) money and we will decide the future course (of action).

The top law officer, who denied the government was shielding anybody, offered to give the names to the court-appointed special investigating team (SIT) after completion of the probe. But the court retorted, “It (probe) will never happen during our time. You don’t verify. Just pass (on) the information to us. We will ask the SIT or income tax department or probably the CBI to investigate. Let SIT declare the accounts don’t have a tinge of black money. If the money is hard-earned, nobody will insist it be brought back.”

The court’s direction came a day after the Centre filed an affidavit giving the names of seven individuals and a mining company who have allegedly stashed black money abroad and are facing prosecution for tax evasion under the
Income Tax Act. 

List Sumitted:

A day after (on October, 29) the Supreme Court rapped the Centre for providing a protective umbrella to foreign bank account holders the Union government submitted a list of 627 Indians holding black money abroad, in a sealed cover. The Centre also gave a status report on the investigations against such account holders.

The made it clear that it did not intend to open the envelopes, and asked the Registry to send them to the Special Investigation Team. It directed that the envelopes be opened only by the SIT chairman, Justice M.B. Shah, and vice-chairman, Justice Arijit Pasayat, to conduct a further investigation.

The Bench empowered the SIT to evolve its own procedure after hearing the Centre’s stand on India’s tax treaties. The Bench asked the SIT to submit a status report on its investigation by November 30

The court is hearing a public interest petition filed by former law minister Ram Jethmalani in 2009 seeking a direction to the Centre to bring back black money stashed by Indians abroad. Jethmalani had accused the government of attempting to shield powerful politicians and businessmen.


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