The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Centre to disclose all the information it received from Germany on 26 individuals who had stashed away their black money in LGT Bank, Liechtenstein.
On Tuesday, Solicitor-General Mohan Parasaran disclosed the names of 18 persons to Ram Jethmalani, who is the petitioner. However, the list did not contain details of the amount each individual had invested. Information of 26 persons was given by the government in sealed covers.
Mr. Parasaran said of the 12 trusts that involved 26 individuals, investigation in 18 cases had been concluded by the Income Tax department and prosecutions had been launched in 17 cases (as one person is dead). The SG said investigations on eight other persons found no evidence of tax evasion in terms of Indian laws. He added that their names were in the second sealed envelope, and its contents weren’t shared with the petitioner.
A three-judge Bench of Justices H.L. Dattu and Ranjana Desai and Madan Lokur told the SG that it would decide on disclosing the contents of sealed covers.
When hearing resumed on Thursday the Bench passed a brief order directing the Union government to furnish all the details to Mr. Jethmalani within three days. Sources said the Centre had raised a demand of about Rs. 40 crore as income tax from the individuals against whom the probe was completed.
The Bench also appointed former apex court Judge M.B. Shah as Chairman of the Special Investigation Team, following the inability expressed by Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy to head the SIT. The Bench appointed retired apex court judge Arijit Pasayat as vice-chairman of the SIT.
The Bench reiterated the order passed by the court in July 2011 specifying the terms of reference for the SIT.
The order said, “The SIT shall take over the matter of investigation of the individuals whose names have been disclosed by Germany as having accounts in banks in Liechtenstein and expeditiously conduct the same. The SIT shall review and assess whether investigations have been properly conducted before concluding if there is a need for further investigation.”
The Bench said, “The SIT shall also be charged with the responsibility of preparing a comprehensive action plan, including the creation of necessary institutional structures that can enable and strengthen the country’s battle against generation of unaccounted monies and their stashing away in foreign banks or in various forms domestically. The SIT shall be charged with the responsibilities and duties of investigation, initiation of proceedings and prosecution, whether in the context of appropriate criminal or civil proceedings of all issues relating to the matters concerning and arising from unaccounted monies of Hassan Ali Khan and the Tapurias. All other matters with respect to unaccounted monies being stashed in foreign banks by Indians or other entities operating in India may arise in the course of such investigations and proceedings.” The Bench asked the SIT to file periodic status reports to the court.
The Bench directed the Centre to issue notification on the constitution of the SIT within three weeks and posted the matter for further hearing on August 20.