The Supreme Court on Monday pulled up the Union government for not “showing seriousness” in bringing back black money stashed away abroad, and constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to take steps to bring back unaccounted monies.
Passing an interim order on petitions filed by the former Union Law Minister, Ram Jethmalani, and others, a Bench of Justices B. Sudershan Reddy and S.S. Nijjar, expressed serious concern over the magnitude of the problem and the threat black money posed to the country's economy.
The SIT will function under the chairmanship of the retired Supreme Court judge, B.P. Jeevan Reddy.
The court directed the government to issue a notification forthwith regarding the appointment of the SIT and ordered that the government machinery cooperate with it.
Centre's view rejected
Writing the order, Justice Sudershan Reddy rejected the government contention that since a high-level committee (HLC) was set up there was no need for a SIT.
The Bench said: “The volume of alleged income-taxes owed to the country, as demanded by the Union of India itself, and the volume of monies, by some accounts $8.04 billion, and some other accounts in excess of Rs. 70,000 crore, are said to have been routed through various bank accounts of Hassan Ali Khan and Tapurias. Further, from all accounts it has been acknowledged that none of the named individuals has any known and lawful sources for such huge quantities of monies.
“All of these factors, either individually or combined, ought to have immediately raised questions regarding the sources being unlawful activities, national security, and transfer of funds into India for other illegal activities, including acts against the State. It was only at the repeated insistence by us that such matters have equal, if not even greater importance than issues of tax collection, has the Union of India belatedly concluded that such aspects also ought to be investigated with thoroughness. However, there is still no evidence of a really serious investigation into these other matters from the national security perspective.
“The fact remains that the Union of India has struggled in conducting a proper investigation into the affairs of Hassan Ali Khan and the Tapurias. This highly complex investigation has in fact just begun. The formation of the HLC was a necessary step, and may even be characterised as a welcome step. Nevertheless, it is an insufficient step.”
Besides the HLC members, the SIT will have the Director of Research and Analysis Wing as a member. The former Supreme Court judge, M.B. Shah, will be its vice-chairman.