Taking note of the letter by Pune-based businessman Hasan Ali apprehending threat to his life and to his family, the Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Centre and the Maharashtra government to provide them adequate protection.
A Bench of Justices B. Sudershan Reddy and S.S. Nijjar passed this order acting on the handwritten letter, addressed to the court and submitted by Solicitor-General Gopal Subramaniam (SG). It was hearing an Enforcement Directorate appeal against a Mumbai trial court order quashing remand for Hasan Ali and petitions on black money. Hasan Ali is accused of money laundering and stashing away money abroad.
The Bench directed the ED to video and audio-record the statements of the accused and witnesses though these might not be admissible in evidence. It would be open to Hasan Ali to move the trial court for bail and it should pass orders on such application uninfluenced by its earlier order quashing remand.
The Bench directed the government to place before it, in a sealed cover, by April 8 the CD and transcripts of the statements of Hasan Ali said to have been recorded by Ashok Deshbhratar, a senior Maharashtra police officer, who has now been placed under suspension.
Earlier, expressing the court's displeasure, Justice Reddy told the SG that the manner in which the investigation had proceeded since 2008 made it clear that there was no substantial progress in it.
Nor was there the speed at which the investigation ought to have been done.
“Since 2008, you have known that certain individuals for years have some kind of money abroad. Instead of looking into that, you talked about double taxation treaty and this treaty and that treaty. Simple questions you could have asked these individuals were from where from you have got that money'? So far you have not answered that issue.”
Justice Reddy said: “We went through the status report and the interrogation report filed by you last [Monday] night and I found that there was no considerable effort to find out the sources of money. We have found only three-four questions but we have not found anything about the sources of money.”
Referring to the list of persons mentioned by the ED against whom it was conducting the probe, Justice Reddy told the SG: “It is not that they were foreigners. All of them were here but in three years we find that you have not done anything. It has been more than three years. You have been investigating it since 2008. The fundamental question is about the sources of money and that is not forthcoming.”
Senior counsel Anil Divan, appearing for the main petitioner and former Union Law Minister Ram Jethmalani, said that only the constitution of a Special Investigation Team, headed by a retired Supreme Court judge and assisted by a sitting or retired High Court judge and a police officer experienced in interrogation, would help in unearthing the whole gamut of black money stashed away abroad.
Senior counsel K.K. Venugopal and Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for other petitioners supported the plea for setting up a SIT.
Mr. Jethmalani brought to the court's notice that Mr. Deshbhratar was suspended for the simple reason that he sought government permission to assist the Supreme Court in this case. Details of the interrogation of Hasan Ali made by this police officer should be produced in court and he should be allowed to assist the court, Mr. Jethmalani said.
Further hearing is posted to April 8.