Reveal names of all secret account holders today: SC

Judges tell Centre not to put protective umbrella over people

Reveal names of all secret account holders today: SC

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Union government to give a complete list of persons who had stashed money in foreign banks, and pulled it up for being overly cautious on the issue.

A three-judge bench, presided over by Chief Justice H L Dattu, asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi to submit the list of all names in sealed cover by Wednesday, rejecting his plea that not all accounts in offshore institutions would have black money.

The apex court refused to modify its 2011 order, which had directed the disclosure of names of all account-holders in foreign destinations, even though Rohatgi insisted that revealing the details received from other countries without “prosecutable evidence” could jeopardise the government’s prospects of getting further details.

“We can’t leave the issue of bringing back black money to the government. It will never happen in our lifetime,” said the bench, pulling up the government for being overly cautious on the issue.

“You don’t have to protect anyone. Why are you putting a protective umbrella over those people (who have accounts in foreign banks)? Give us the entire list in a sealed cover—all the information that you received from France, Germany or other countries,” said the bench, also consisting of Justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and Madan B Lokur.

As soon as the hearing on the government’s plea for modification of the 2011 order began, the court made its intent clear by asking the government to disclose all names to the court and to the Justice M B Shah-headed Special Investigation Team (SIT). 

The court said it would decide the future course of action, including investigation, after the disclosure.

“You (the government) don’t have to take care of so much about interest of those people (with foreign bank accounts). You requested the countries for information. Pass the information to us,” the bench said.

Rohatgi contended that in the Double Tax Avoidance Agreements the government had entered or was likely to enter, it had to give a confidentiality certificate for exchange of information.

“Please don’t give the certificate to anyone. We don’t want money belonging to the country to go away,” said the bench, adding that the account-holders would “come back to us and say that it is their hard-earned money”.

Rohatgi said the government had already submitted the list to the SIT on June 27.“The moment you disclose the names, the SIT may issue notice to the persons concerned. Whatever names you have, pass it on to us. Unless we monitor, nothing will come out,” said the bench.

“Disclose all the names to us as disclosed by the countries. That is what the petitioner wants. Give it (the information) to us. We will pass on the details to the I-T department or the CBI,” it added.

The court said that the SIT would decide whether to order a CBI probe or Income Tax probe against the names revealed.

Minutes after the court’s order, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said no one would be protected and the complete list would be submitted to the court on Wednesday as the government is keen to get to the root of the matter.

The government, which revealed only eight names on Monday in an affidavit, is now left with no choice, said noted lawyer and petitioner Ram Jethmalani.

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