Court has no jurisdiction to convert high-power panel into SIT: Centre

The Supreme Court will hear on August 24 the question of maintainability of the Centre's application for recall/modification of its July 4 order on black money.

Acting on the petitions filed by the former Union Law Minister, Ram Jethmalani, and others, the court ordered the constitution of a special investigation team, headed by the retired Supreme Court judge, Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy, and with another retired Supreme Court judge, Justice M.B. Shah, as vice-chairman. On July 15, the Centre filed its application saying the order was passed without jurisdiction.

When the matter was taken up by a three-judge Bench on Tuesday, Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati, appearing for the Centre, said that though initially the application was for recall/modification of the order, a fresh one was filed seeking deletion of paragraphs 49 and 50, which relate only to the constitution of the SIT.

‘Not maintainable'

Senior counsel Anil Divan, appearing for the petitioners, argued that the application for review of the July 4 order was not maintainable. Further, the government did not comply with its various directions.

Senior counsel Rajeev Dhavan said the court should first decide on the question of maintainability.

Mr. Vahanvati said he would satisfy the court that the application was maintainable. At this, Justice Altamas Kabir said: “Whether the application is maintainable or not will be taken up first on August 24.”

Opposing the constitution of the SIT, the Centre said: “The court would have no power to appoint two retired judges on the high-level committee (HCL), which has been constituted in exercise of the powers of the policy decision taken on the subject by the government, nor would this court have the jurisdiction or authority to convert the HLC into a SIT and further direct it to report to this court alone. The inclusion of retired judges in such a SIT would be contrary to the conferment of the powers to investigate, which can be done only in accordance with statutory provisions.”

Justices Cyriac Joseph and S.S. Nijjar are the other judges on the Bench.