New Delhi, Jul 4: The Supreme Court today appointed a high-level 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.
Besides Justice Reddy, who will be the chairman of the SIT, the apex court also appointed its former judge, Justice M B Shah as the vice-chairman of the panel.
A bench comprising justices B Sudershan Reddy and S S Nijjar 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 bench also directed the government to disclose the names of all the persons who have been issued show cause notices by the authorities in connection with the probe into the black money issue.
The court, however, made it clear that the authorities would not disclose the names of those who have not been investigated in connection with deposits made in foreign banks including Liechtenstein bank.
The court passed the order on a petition filed by eminent jurist Ram Jethmalani and others seeking directions to the government to track black money stashed away abroad and bring it back.
The apex court directed the government to issue notification forthwith regarding the appointment of SIT and ordered that government machinery to cooperate with it. The bench, while passing the order, made some hard-hitting observation against the Centre for its “failure” to take proper action against people who have illegally stashed away money in foreign banks.
Observing the phenomenon of black money as “extremely dangerous to the country”, the court said the quantum of money in foreign banks is a rough measure of “weakness” and “softness” of the nation.
The bench said that it was a serious lapse on the part of the government which will have implications on the country's external and internal security.“We must express serious reservation on the steps taken by the government...It's clear to us that investigation was completely stalled and expedited only after the court's intervention.
“It was only upon this court's insistence that proper investigation was conducted,” the bench said while referring to Pune stud farm owner Hasan Ali Khan's case. “There was much to be desired,” the court said, adding there was a need for it to get involved in the case. “We hold that continued involvement of the court is necessary,” the bench said, while directing the SIT to take over all the cases relating to the issue of black money and file a status report before it.The court also asked the SIT to submit a comprehensive action plan to deal with cases relating to the black money issue.
Justifying its decision to constitute the SIT, the bench said that in previous cases also the court has been passing such orders to fulfil its constitutional obligation. The court also said that it's not possible for it to be involved in day-to-day investigations in the case as the resources at its disposal were scarce.The bench said the issue of black money has to be taken with a degree of seriousness and the state is primarily responsible to make all efforts to bring back into the country such wealth and punish people who have stashed away money in foreign banks.
Meanwhile, Government today refrained from commenting on the Supreme Court order.
“I do not think one should give off-the-cuff reaction on a Supreme Court order. If Supreme Court has given an order it is final because it is the final court. Let us first read the order,” Home Minister P Chidambaram told reporters here.
He said the government has only heard that such an order has been passed by the Supreme Court.
“Let us wait to see the text of the order,” Chidambaram said adding that after going through the details a government spokesman will respond to it if necessary.
To a separate question on reports of government plans to intercept communications sent through Gmail or Skype, Chidambaram said the reports were based on inter-departmental communication and “no decision has been taken”.
The Home Minister said a decision can be taken only after the matter comes to the ministers. PTI