Action, at last

Action, at last

It took a long time and a change of government for the executive to comply with the Supreme Court directive to set up a Special Investigation Team on black money.

It was the Modi government’s first decision to set it up under a retired judge MB Shah with an array of powerful officials from intelligence, security and economy-related agencies.

It did not however have a choice because the court had  set a deadline of Thursday for the formation of the SIT.

The UPA government had dilly-dallied on it for years.

The court’s first order on the matter was issued in 2010 on a petition by noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani.

But the government contested it, sought a review, tried to avoid it and when it found the court persistent, left it for the next government. So much for its commitment to respect court orders and promises of making all efforts to unearth black money, prevent its creation and bring back all the money stashed away illegally.

The high-powered committee will investigate and initiate proceedings and prosecution in cases of tax evasion and on issues related to unaccounted money.

It has a wide jurisdiction and is expected to prepare an action plan to fight black money and to report to the court on its work from time to time.

In spite of that there is room for scepticism on what it can do.

It has to investigate thousands of cases within the country and outside.

The fight against black money does not just involve attempts to bring back money from numbered foreign bank accounts, though that itself is a hard task.

Laws may have to be changed and treaties may have to be renegotiated. The UPA government was not willing to disclose the names of those whose names had been supplied to it as holders of illegal accounts. Obviously, it had interests, persons and secrets to protect.

The BJP has campaigned for long for the unearthing of black money. Senior leader LK Advani and Narendra Modi have led the campaign.

The party now has the opportunity to follow up and act on the matter.

The government can go beyond the activities of the SIT and take steps to prevent tax evasion and creation of black money.

It may have to look at improving the tax system, cleaning up sectors like real estate and changing the election funding practices. Parties, including the BJP, may also have to answer questions about their funds.