Why focus only on Hasan Ali?

Totally dissatisfied with the progress of investigation in the black money issue, the Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre: “Are you sleeping?”

A Bench of Justices B. Sudershan Reddy and S.S. Nijjar, hearing petitions filed by the former Union Law Minister, Ram Jethmalani, and others, asked the government to explain why its investigation was focussed only on the Pune-based businessman Hasan Ali Khan and no other name had come out.

Justice Reddy told Solicitor-General Gopal Subramaniam: “The investigation requires complete and full-fledged involvement of all departments of the government as the most important question was about disclosure of the source of money stashed [away] in foreign banks. This could be terror money or money coming from drug peddling or from sale of arms.”

Justice Reddy said: “Your whole focus is centred on one individual. Does it mean that all black money parked in foreign banks belong to only one person? Is it that the black money issue is surrounding around one person? Do you have information beyond that?”

When the SG said different agencies were investigating different aspects of the matter, Justice Nijjar asked: “Are all department heads sleeping till now.”

The SG replied that other agencies were not sleeping as cases would have to be registered for proper investigation.

Justice Reddy asked the SG: “Why is the government not disclosing names of others who had stashed [away] money in foreign banks. Is it that the black money issue is surrounding around only one person? We put it very simply and bluntly. Do you have any information regarding other persons also? It seems there is only one person [Indian] who has bank account in Switzerland and no other person's account has come under suspicion in Swiss banks.”

The SG denied that there was slackness on the part of the government and said the court could ask the Reserve Bank of India to file a report on black money stashed away in UBS bank, Switzerland, on the basis of which further action could be taken. The passport case (against Hasan Ali) should be investigated by the CBI as the offence in this regard was not restricted to Maharashtra but involved other States as well. Pointing out the need for a special investigation team to probe various aspects of the matter, Justice Reddy said: “We are very clear in our mind that more than one agency is required to conduct investigation and it should be monitored by a person of eminence which could be a retired Chief Justice of High Court.”

The SG sought time to take instructions, even as senior counsel Anil Divan, appearing for the petitioner, reiterated the need for a SIT probe.

Further hearing is posted to April 25.