Delhi: New Delhi: In a major development, the Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the central government to reveal by Wednesday the names of all Indian account holders in foreign banks in a sealed envelope.
Resuming its hearing in the black money case, the SC pulled up government for seeking modification of its order on disclosing names of account holders in foreign banks.
New regime at Centre can’t ask modification of order when it was passed in an open court and accepted by the government, the apex court said.
The apex court also ordered the government to just pass the information of account holders and that it would give order for further probe.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi’s fervent plea that it can disclose names only after conducting probes on illegality of bank accounts was outright rejected by the Bench which asked the government not to do anything but provide all information to it and the court would direct investigation to be done by SIT or any other agencies including CBI.
At the end of a 30-minute hearing, Attorney General said the government has received 500 names of account holders from different countries like Germany.
The CJI asked the Centre not to indulge in any kind of probe by itself and said that investigation would never complete in his lifetime if it is done by the government.
“You do not do anything. Just pass information of account holders to us and we will pass order for further probe,” the bench, also comprising justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and Madan B Lokur, said.
The bench brushed aside the contentions of AG that disclosing account holders’ names would violate their right to privacy of those who have legitimate accounts and the names can be revealed only after a prima facie case of tax evasion is made out.
“You do not have to take interest in people (having foreign bank accounts). SIT will take care of it,” the bench said setting a deadline for tomorrow to place all those names.
The court directed the Centre not to give “one, two, or three names of account holders but the entire list supplied to it by the foreign countries”.
The Attorney General tried his best to convince the court that disclosure of names of all account holders could hamper government’s efforts to bring back black money as the foreign countries might not give further information on tainted accounts in their territories.
He submitted that the apex court-appointed SIT is not a statutory body which can issue notice to account holders and it can be done only by the IT department. All information has already been given to the SIT, he added.
The direction came a day after the NDA government released eight names against whom it has started prosecution for allegedly stashing black money in foreign banks. Of the eight, three of them were said to have bank account in foreign banks.
However, the government came under criticism both from within and the Opposition for being ‘selective’ in revealing the names.
Following this, the Supreme Court also questioned the government as to why it was providing protective umbrella to foreign bank account holders.
We can’t leave the issue of bringing back black money to government. It will never happen during our time, the SC said in its judgement.
Yesterday, the government named Pradip Burman (former director, Dabur India Limited), Pankaj Chimanlal Lodhiya (Rajkot-based bullion trader) and Radha S Timblo (Timblo Private Limited) in its affidavit filed in the Supreme Court.
The affidavit, filed days after the government came under attack from political rivals that it was chary of revealing names, said that these names have been received from French authorities and other countries.