SC snubs Centre over black money

SC snubs Centre over black money

“It is a pure and simple theft of the national money. We are talking about mind-boggling crime. We are not on the niceties of various treaties,” a Bench comprising Justices B Sudershan Reddy and S S Nijjar remarked while hearing a petition by former Law Minister Ram Jethmalani and others for retrieving Indians’ black money from foreign banks.

Government steps
The Bench’s observation came when Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium was explaining various steps taken by the government under the Double Taxation Avoidance Act (DTAA).
The court was unhappy that the government filed an affidavit restricting information relating to the money deposited by 26 people in Liechtenstein Bank in Germany.
The Bench said: “This is all the information you have or you have something more? That is the plunder of nation? We are talking about huge money.”

Anguish
The judges expressed anguish that the government’s affidavit, filed in a sealed cover and referring to 26 names, had been signed by a mere director-level officer. According to the Bench, the affidavit should have been signed by none less than the finance secretary himself.

The solicitor general, however, tried to pacify the Bench saying it was an established procedure that an affidavit was always filed with concurrence at the highest level. Subramanium also accepted that the figure about black money stashed away in foreign banks was mind-boggling.

But he expressed limitation in sharing all information about it saying the authorities had to proceed on the basis of mutual agreement with various countries where money was stashed away in banks.

Limited information
The Bench also questioned the government for limiting the information provided by it only to Liechtenstein Bank. “Why are you limiting the matter to Liechtenstein Bank only? What stops or precludes this court from expanding the scope of this writ petition in public interest? All we want is that you give information about the money deposited in the foreign banks by Indians,” it said.

The court made it clear that the question of avoiding tax “does not arise here.”
Appearing for the petitioner, senior advocate Anil Divan said the government was concealing information, which was totally wrong.

The plea for DTAA had been chosen with mala fide intention to conceal information from the people. The issue of tax avoidance had no relevance as the source of money could be of terror, narcotics or even arms dealing, Divan said.

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