The Supreme Court also questioned why the government was ‘œholding a protective umbrella for these people’.
Good news for those who were complaining about central government being selective over the black money account holders list provided by the HSBC. The Supreme Court too was miffed with the centre for revealing just three names out of 700.
The apex court has asked the central government to disclose the whole list to it on Wednesday. The Supreme Court also questioned why the government was “holding a protective umbrella for these people”.
Interestingly, the order came when the court was hearing a fresh application by the government for, in fact, restricting the disclosure.
“Don’t give us two or three names but all the names. Give us the entire list… whatever you have got from Germany, France, Switzerland and other countries. What you have disclosed could be a tip of the iceberg. This is going to be the first step now —disclose everything. We can’t leave the issue completely to you (government). It may never happen during our time,” said the bench, headed by Justice HL Dattu, Justice Ranjana P Desai and Justice Madan B Lokur.
The names that were revealed were actually of eight people but five of them came from the same group. These names were of Dabur India promoter Pradip Burman, bullion trader Pankaj Chamanlal Lodhiya, Goa mining company Timblo Private Ltd and five of its directors — Radha Satish Timblo, Chetan S Timblo, Rohan S Timblo, Anna C Timblo and Mallika R Timblo.
The government had told court that these were being prosecuted under the Income Tax Act for allegedly keeping black money in foreign bank accounts.
The Supreme Court wants the government to present all the factual matters rather than choose the mode and manner of the investigation. The bench said that the CBI may be roped in for investigation in the matter. According to the Indian Express, the bench said the court had in 2011 issued orders for complete disclosure of information received from foreign governments and it would hence also take the responsibility of ensuring the case reaches its logical end.
“Why do you (government) want to investigate? You don’t have to take the trouble of investigating. Why are you bothered? Why are you holding a protective umbrella for these people? You just pass on all the information to us and we will decide. We can ask even CBI to investigate. We are not helpless. We had passed the original order in 2011 and we will take the responsibility now as well,” it said.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi kept the earlier stand of the government and urged the bench to modify the July 2011 order. He asserted that only those names where probe was over and the cases had been found prosecutable should be allowed to made public and not otherwise. The AG added it would also not be in congruity to disclose names that have been given a clean chit after probe.
The court, however, expressed displeasure over the argument. “You are trying to re-argue the matter which in our opinion is impermissible. We won’t change even a word of our order. Months after, the new regime at the Centre can’t ask for modification of order when it was passed in an open court and accepted by the government. Don’t give the names only to SIT but give them to us too,” it said.
Meanwhile, former Delhi Chief Minister and convener of the Aam Aadmi Party Arvind Kejriwal moved an application in the Supreme Court, seeking to be heard in the black money case. Kejriwal claimed he had personal knowledge of some people, who have stashed black money in their foreign bank accounts. He said he also had confessional statements made by three persons before the Income-Tax authorities. Kejriwal said these names had not been given to the court till date.
The whole scenario seems to be one where the NDA government wants to be seen as being arm-twisted by the Supreme Court to reveal the names. As Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said, the list will bring embarrassment to the Congress and many others. There may be many legit account holders. And standing in the list will only bring embarrassment and nothing else.
But the NDA government won’t be responsible for this embarrassment for it was ‘forced’ to do so by the Supreme Court.