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In a major development today, the SC Bench consisting of Justices B. Sudershan Reddy and S.S. Nijjar ruled on a petition filed by Ram Jethmalani and others. The Bench constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by former apex court judge B.P. Jeevan Reddy to monitor the investigation and the steps being taken to bring back black money stashed away in foreign banks. Justice M.B. Shah, former Judge of the Supreme Court, will be the Vice-Chairman. Apart from the former SC Judges, the heads of Intelligence Bureau and RAW would be a part of the SIT. The SC Bench has asked the SIT to submit its report
Supreme Court bench directed that the High-Level Committee (HLC) constituted by the government to look into the issue of black money would “forthwith” be a part of the SIT.
The 49-page judgment by the SC Bench starts with the narrative from the Watergate scandal that rocked the United States.
To quote the judgment starts, “Follow the money” was the short and simple advice given by the secret informant, within the American Government, to Bob Woodward, the journalist from Washington Post, in aid of his investigations of the Watergate Hotel break in”.
The SC Bench heard arguments from Senior Advocates Anil Divan, KK Venugopal who appeared on behalf of Ram Jethmalani and 5 other petitioners while Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium along with ASG HP Raval and Mukhul Rohtagi appeared on behalf of the Union. The SC Bench passed some hard remarks on the Union with regard to the Hasan Ali investigation.
Here is the operative part of the Supreme Court judgment regarding constitution of the SIT:
|(i) That the High Level Committee constituted by the Union of India, comprising of (i) Secretary, Department of Revenue; (ii) Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India; (iii) Director (IB); (iv) Director, Enforcement; (v) Director, CBI; (vi) Chairman, CBDT; (vii) DG, Narcotics Control Bureau; (vii) DG, Revenue Intelligence; (ix) Director, Financial Intelligence Unit; and (x) JS (FT & TR-I), CBDT be forthwith appointed with immediate effect as a Special Investigation Team; |
(ii)That the Special Investigation Team, so constituted, also include Director, Research and Analysis Wing;
(iii) That the above Special Investigation Team, so constituted, be headed by and include the following former eminent judges of this Court: (a) Hon’ble Mr. Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy as Chairman; and (b) Hon’ble Mr. Justice M.B. Shah as Vice-Chairman; and that the Special Investigation Team function under their guidance and direction;
(iv)That the Special Investigation Team, so constituted, shall be charged with the responsibilities and duties of investigation, initiation of proceedings, and prosecution, whether in the context of appropriate criminal or civil proceedings of: (a) all issues relating to the matters concerning and arising from unaccounted monies of Hassan Ali Khan and the Tapurias; (b) all other investigations already commenced and are pending, or awaiting to be initiated, with respect to any other known instances of the stashing of unaccounted monies in foreign bank accounts by Indians or other entities operating in India; and (c) all other matters with respect to unaccounted monies being stashed in foreign banks by Indians or other entities operating in India that may arise in the course of such investigations and proceedings. It is clarified here that within the ambit of responsibilities described above, also lie the responsibilities to ensure that the matters are also investigated, proceedings initiated and prosecutions conducted with regard to criminality and/or unlawfulness of activities that may have been the source for such monies, as well as the criminal and/or unlawful means that are used to take such unaccounted monies out of and/or bring such monies back into the country, and use of such monies in India or abroad. The Special Investigation Team shall also be charged with the responsibility of preparing a comprehensive action plan, including the creation of necessary institutional structures that can enable and strengthen the country’s battle against generation of unaccounted monies, and their stashing away in foreign banks or in 34 various forms domestically………
The SC Bench also ruled on the disclosure of names of account holders in Liechtenstein. The Bench said, “There is no presumption that every account holder in banks of Liechtenstein has acted unlawfully. In these circumstances, it would be inappropriate for this Court to order the disclosure of such names, even in the context of proceedings under Clause (1) of Article 32”. The Bench further added “The revelation of details of bank accounts of individuals, without establishment of prima facie grounds to accuse them of wrong doing, would be a violation of their rights to privacy. Details of bank accounts can be used by those who want to harass, or otherwise cause damage, to individuals. We cannot remain blind to such possibilities, and indeed experience reveals that public dissemination of banking details, or availability to unauthorized persons, has led to abuse”.
The SC Bench ordered “…That the Union of India is exempted from revealing the names of those individuals who have accounts in banks of Liechtenstein, and revealed to it by Germany, with respect of who investigations/enquiries are still in progress and no information or evidence of wrongdoing is yet available”.
Bar & Bench earlier reported that Supreme Court condemned centre for not acting against people having black money.