Modi government to submit names of 600 foreign account holders in Supreme Court today

Names of list would not be made public

New Delhi: In a landmark step in the battle against black money, the Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Centre to reveal to it all the names of those who had stashed black money overseas on Wednesday in a sealed envelope.

The court refused the government’s plea to modify its earlier order on disclosure of all names, saying this was accepted by the earlier UPA government.

The court asked the Centre not to bother about ordering any kind of probe into the matter, saying that the judges will pass orders on what kind of probe or investigations were necessary, and by which agency.

Attorney-general Mukul Rohatgi told the court that the government had received 500 names of account-holders from different countries, including Germany.

Reacting to court’s order, finance minister Arun Jaitley said the government was ready to submit the entire list of black money account-holders to the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Mr Jaitley claimed the government was keen to punish all illicit foreign account-holders and would do everything to bring back black money.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley said the truth about those who held money illegally in foreign bank accounts and the details of those accounts must come out so that penal action could be taken and the money could be brought back to India.

“The government has no difficulty whatsoever with any agency investigating this matter, because there is nobody that the government wants to protect in this case, so those whose names have come must be investigated and punished according to the law,” he said.

“The government shall place the list before the court because the government has already given (the list) to the court-constituted Special Investigating Team (on June 27). The government is keen that by whatever procedure in accordance with the law we must get to the root of the matter,” the minister said.

However, he did not respond to a query on whether the government would make the list public.

The minister said the government was also keen that proper procedures be followed so that the reciprocating countries continue to cooperate with India.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Supreme Court had rejected Mr Rohatgi’s plea that it can disclose the names only after it conducts a probe on the illegality of bank accounts.

“The order was passed in open court in the presence of the solicitor-general, and the new regime can’t ask for a modification of the order. We cannot touch our order and we won’t change even a word of it,” said the bench.

“Why are you trying to protect people having bank accounts in foreign countries? Why are you providing a protective umbrella for all these people?” it asked.

Chief Justice H.L. Dattu asked the Centre not to indulge in any kind of probe by itself, and said the investigation would never be completed in his lifetime if it was done by the government. “You do not do anything. Just pass the information of account holders to us and we will pass orders for further probe,” the bench said.

The bench did not agree with the A-G’s plea that disclosing the account holders’ names would violate the right to privacy of those with legitimate accounts, and that the names can be revealed only after a prima facie case of tax evasion was made out.

The A-G submitted that the court-appointed SIT was not a statutory body that can issue notice to account-holders and this could be done only by the I-T department.

“We want the names supplied to you by foreign countries. Pass the information to us. You give the information to us. We have taken up the case and are monitoring it. So give us the information, and we would pass it to the SIT. The SIT will take the case to its logical conclusion,” said the court.

The Congress said the Supreme Court order on the black money matter had “exposed” the NDA government’s “lame excuses”. AICC general secretary Ajay Maken said: “During the (Lok Sabha) campaign, the BJP leaders were declaring from the rooftops that the black money stashed abroad will be brought back within 100 days. (But) when it came to declaring the names, they just released three.”

BJP leader Subramanian Swamy also termed as “wrong” the stand taken by the government that the names of those with foreign bank accounts could not be disclosed because of treaties.

( Source : dc correspondent with agency inputs )
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