The Supreme Court on Wednesday came down heavily on the central government for its failure to retrieve black money stashed in foreign banks and declined a plea to modify its own three-year-old order directing a special investigation team (SIT) to probe all issues relating to such unaccounted wealth.
A three-judge bench presided over by Justice H L Dattu told Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran rather unequivocally that it was because of the government’s “inaction” that the high-level body was ordered to be set up.
“This court does not want black money in its own pockets. This court took up the cudgels when the government has failed,” it said.
On July 4, 2011 the court directed the constitution of a 10-member SIT under former Supreme Court judges B P Jeevan Reddy and M B Shah as chairman and vice chairman, repsectively. The Centre, however, approached the court to modify the order, contending that the SIT could not monitor a criminal investigation and report back to the court as it would be tantamount to interfering in its work.
The bench slammed the Centre over its failure to take any concrete measure to bring back black money stashed in foreign banks for more than 65 years.
“This is not an usual matter. Since 1947 till now, nobody thought of bringing back black money of the country. Economy of the country is being destroyed,” said the bench, also comprising Justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and Madan B Lokur.
“The feeling of this court is money is lying in foreign banks. Per capita income of the country would have gone up, had the money been brought back. Income tax rate of 30 per cent which we are paying would have been reduced,” the bench added.
The bench dismissed the application saying, “we do not see anything good in it”. “Let us see if the SIT could do what the court is dreaming about,” it observed. During the hearing, the court also questioned the government dragging its feet on its order passed in 2011.
“Three years have elapsed. What you people have done?(sic) What exercise you have taken since then? Except filing reports in sealed cover, nothing has been done,” the bench said to Parasaran.
The solicitor general said the government had done enough by starting action against Hasan Ali and Kashinath Tapuria for their alleged involvement in hoarding black money.
“We are so happy. We have asked you to file compliance report. If you have done so much what is the point of modification of order?” the bench asked him.
Parasaran, however, again contended that only a government could approach another sovereign country to seek help in black money investigations (and not a court).
But the court was not impressed. Instead it appreciated efforts made by senior advocate Ram Jethmalani who had filed the PIL.
“At least there is a person who wanted the apex court to intervene. This court reacted and wanted the government to act,” the bench said.