Govt submits names of foreign a/c holders

Govt submits names of foreign a/c holders

SC refuses to open sealed envelopes, sends it to SIT

Govt submits names of foreign a/c holders

The Centre on Wednesday submitted a list of 627 account holders in Geneva’s HSBC Bank before the Supreme Court which refused to go through the names and asked the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to act on information relating to black money keepers in accordance with the law.

A day after slamming the Centre for maintaining secrecy over such names, a three-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice H L Dattu virtually agreed to the plea made by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who maintained that making public the information could jeopardise prospects of getting further details from foreign countries due to a confidentiality clause.

The bench refused to open three sealed envelopes furnished by Rohatgi in deference to the court’s order of Tuesday. 

As the government reiterated its apprehension of losing all future information in case of disclosure except before the authorities, the bench said they would forward all the material to the SIT headed by Justice M B Shah. The SIT will decide the future course of action.

Rohatgi submitted the list of names received from France, along with the status report. About half of the names were of Indians and the remaining of the non-resident Indians. The top law officer also told the court the last entry in the list was made in 2006 and the details were provided by the government of France in 2011.

“We have no problem in giving the list to the court. The court may be pleased to see the status report, may direct investigation itself or by any agency. We do not intend to hide anything,” he said.

The bench, which had pulled up the government for being chary of sharing the complete list, said the problem started with the government making an application to modify the 2011 order for disclosure of information on black money account holders.

The court said it would send all the materials to the SIT. “The SIT knows its job and would follow the procedure in accordance with the law,” the bench, also comprising Justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and Madan B Lokur, said.

Reacting to the development, Justice Shah said the list was already known to the SIT members. He hoped that the probe would be completed by March 31, 2015, deadline. The Congress, however, challenged the government to reveal the names and reminded it of its promise of bringing back black money.

In his submission, Rohatgi told the bench that the same list was submitted before the SIT on June 27. He said the probe on those names having foreign bank accounts has to be completed by March 31, 2015. The government had earlier given names of eight people against whom prosecution has started for violating Income Tax Act.

“We would not have asked you to come out with the list if you had not made the application for modification of our 2011 order,” the bench said.

“We will ask the SIT to proceed in accordance with the law. We don’t intend to open the papers. It is for the SIT to go through it.” The court, taking into record the sealed packets, asked the registrar general of the apex court to send those materials to the SIT. 

It ordered that the packets would be opened only by the SIT chairman and vice-chairman Justice Arijit Pasayat.