SC asks Center to name foreign bank account holders

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday lambasted the Center on its lack of compliance to a three- year- old directive issued by the Court to the government to disclose the names of foreign bank account holders of a bank in tax-haven Liechtenstein; and termed the center’s inaction as a “gross contempt of court“. The Court has sought a clarification from the government by next Tuesday.

Appearing on the behalf of the government, Solicitor General (SG)Mohan Parasaran had earlier argued that the SIT which had been set up by the Apex Court to investigate the matter, to be headed by Justice BP Jeevan Reddy; had not been set up after Justice Reddy had declined. He stated without SIT appraisal of the information received from Germany about Indian black money stashed in the Liechtenstein bank, the names of the suspected account holders could not be divulged.

To this, senior advocate Anil Divan, appearing on behalf of petitioner Ram Jethmalani; had said that further investigation and disclosing the names of the account holders was not the prerogative of the SIT, but rather of the other governmental agencies involved in the investigation, which included the IB, RAW and revenue intelligence.

Agreeing with him, the bench consisting of Justice HL Dattu, Justice Ranjana P Desai and Justice Madan B Lokur stated that disclosing the names of the suspected account holders had nothing to the SIT as it would come at a later stage of the investigation. They also added that the instructions and language of the Court was to disclose the names forthwith, which the government has been unable to do.

The Court had earlier dismissed the petition filed by the Center asking for a review of its 2011 ruling. The Center had petitioned that a treaty to avoid double taxation between Germany and India also prevented them from naming the 26 accused of holding accounts in the Lichtenstein Bank.

The Court, in its ruling also called the government’s intentions into question when it allowed UBS, allegedly the bank favored by Indians in Switzerland to stash black money, to enter the Indian retail banking sector.