Stating that it has "absolutely no intention to withhold names of persons who have stashed black money abroad, the Centre its fresh affidavit said information related to unaccounted money lying abroad, received under treaties and agreements with various countries, will be disclosed after following the due process of law and in all cases where evasion of tax is established.
The intention of the present government is clear and unambiguous. The government is keen to unearth black money held abroad and for that purpose it will use all diplomatic and legal means and also all investigative agencies to obtain information that can assist in such unearthing, the Centre stated.
However, the government said that every account held by an Indian in a foreign country may not be illegal and the fundamental right of citizens to privacy under Artilce 21 of the Constitution cannot be ignored.
The affidavit filed through Akhilesh Ranjan, Joint Secretary, the Department of Revenue, MoF, said the apex court had earlier held that the state cannot compel citizens to reveal or itself reveal details to the public at large unless the state itself through properly conducted investigations has been able to establish prima facie grounds to accuse the individuals of wrongdoing.
According to the government, it is on the verge of entering into bilateral and multilateral agreements for automatic exchange of information that will greatly help in its fight against black money stashed in financial accounts and assets maintained overseas by the Indian tax payers.
"The new global standards on automatic exchange of information, which will enable us to receive information about Indians hiding their money in offshore financial centers and tax havens through multilayered entities with non-transparent ownership, have confidentiality requirements as per the same international standards, Ranjan further said, and added that every country has to make a commitment that such information can be used only for tax purposes and will be made public only when the investigation is complete and a complaint/prosecution is filed in a competent court for tax evasion.
Earlier on October 17, the Narendra Modi-led government had requested the Supreme Court to modify its earlier orders that sought disclosure of names received by it from foreign governments.
Such disclosure of names and other information received from foreign governments with which India has any treaty including double taxation avoidance agreement (DTAA), will not only lead to the government facing serious problems with regard to diplomatic relations with other nations, but would seriously affect the country's economy, the government had told the bench headed by Chief Justice HL Dattu, which posted the matter for hearing on October 28.
Expressing reservation over making such disclosures, Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi in its 39-page application had submitted that in any event, it is settled law that the court would not pass orders or directions that would compel India to face adverse international diplomatic fallout that will result in India becoming financially disadvantaged as an economic entity at the world stage which would ultimately affect the country's economy and international standing as a whole.
The government had further told the court that if the government is not able to give commitment to maintain confidentiality of information received from the USA and if the agreement is not signed before December-end, it would lead to serious impairment of the Indian financial system.
Earlier, the Manmohan Singh-led government had on April 29 placed before the Supreme Court 26 names and documents of account holders in Liechtenstein Bank in Germany in two different sealed covers.
While disclosing the names of 18 persons to the Supreme Court, the then government had informed the court that the income tax department had completed investigation and launched prosecution against 17 of them as one had died. Eighteen names and the trusts associated with them are: Mohan Manoj Dhupelia, Ambrish Manoj Dhupelia, Bhavya Dhupelia (now Bhavya S. Shanbag), Manoj Dhupelia, Rupal Dhupelia (all Ambrunova Trust reg. & Marline Management S.A), Hansmukh Ishwarlal Gandhi, Chintan Hansmukh Gandhi, Madhu Hansmukh Gandhi, Late Mirav H. Gandhi (all Manichi Trust reg.), Chandrakant Ishwarlal Gandhi, Rajesh Chandrakant Gandhi, Viraj Chandrakant Gandhi, Dhanalaxmi Chandrakant Gandhi (all Ruvisha Trust reg.), Arunkumar Ramniklal Mehta, Harshad Ramniklal Mehta (both Dainese Stiftung and Dryade Stiftung), K.M.Mammen (Webster Foundation), Arun Kochhar (Urvashi Foundation) and Ashok Jaipuria (Raj Foundation).