New Delhi: The central government told Supreme Court today that it cannot disclose details of foreign accounts held by Indians which are governed by bilateral double taxation avoidance treaties.
Attorney General Rohatgi said all amounts deposited in foreign banks by Indian citizens can't be termed as black money and that it is not a crime to open such accounts.
He said that all the information on black money received from foreign countries, with which India has double taxation avoidance agreement, cannot be disclosed.
Rohatgi told reporters after the Supreme Court hearing on the black money issue that details of only those accounts can be made public in which government decides to start prosecution.
He said that government filed an application in the apex court requesting modifications of the earlier order in which the Centre was directed to disclose all the accounts in relation to tax haven Liechtenstein.
“We have requested the Supreme Court that the reciprocating countries have raised an objection and asked to explain why all accounts were disclosed and not only those where prosecution is to be filed,” he said.
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear Centre's application in the black money case on October 28.
Meanwhile, Ram Jethamalani, senior advocate who is also a petitioner in this case, has reacted sharply to centre's stand on this matter and alleged that it was an attempt by Narendra Modi government to shield those who have stashed black money abroad.
Jethmalani said such a plea could be made only by crooks who have illegally parked their ill-gotten money abroad and not by a democratically elected government.
"This will harm our nation and help the people who looted it," said Jethamalani.
“Matter should not be entertained even for a day. Such application should have been made by the culprits and not by the government,” Jethmalani said.
Taking a swipe at the Modi government, Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha said it has no intention to get to the bottom of the black money case.
“Our government had recognised the issue of black money. There is no international law other than UN convention against corruption of which we are signatory in 2011.
“If we go back to some of the events last year, the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram spent considerable time and resources in convicing authorities to disclose the names,” he said.
“This government has no intention to get to the bottom of the black money case. During his campaign, Modi had promised to get back the black money in 100 days but they have not taken any initiative,” he said.
Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma also said that the government's stand is a reflection on its double standard.
“This shows double standard of the present Govt,” said Anand Sharma.
Defending government's stand, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said, “All treaties have a confidentially clause, hv to make fresh treaties including ones with US.”
When asked to comment on Ram Jethamalani's allegations, Rohatgi said, “his allegations are totally unwarranted, don't think they are worth replying to.”
It should be recalled that the Supreme Court had directed the government to constitute a SIT to investigate individuals whose names were disclosed by Germany for having accounts in LGT Bank in Liechtenstein, a European principality known for its banking secrecy laws.
To meet a deadline set by the Supreme Court for the previous government, the new government headed by Narendra Modi had set up a high-powered Special Investigation Team (SIT) to look into the issue of black money and slush funds on the very first day of its office in May.