NDA govt toes UPA line on black money information

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Oct 18 2014, 05:33am hrs
In what is perceived to be a digression from BJP's pre-poll stance and seemingly in sync with UPAs line on the issue of bringing back black money stashed abroad by Indian citizens, the Narendra Modi-led government on Friday 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 the double taxation avoidance agreement, will not only lead to the government facing problems with regard to diplomatic ties with other nations, but would seriously affect the country's economy, the government 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 Rohatgi in a 39-page application 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 told the court that if the government is not able to give a commitment to maintain confidentiality of information received from the US and if the deal is not signed before December-end, it would lead to impairment of the Indian financial system.

However, senior advocate Ram Jethmalani on whose plea the apex court had constituted a special investigating team (SIT) on black money, strongly objected to the Centre's stand, accusing the NDA of trying to protect the culprits who stashed money in overseas banks. The matter should not be entertained even for a day. Such application should have been made by the culprits and not by the government, he said.

Jethmalani, who claimed that around R70 lakh crore is stashed in foreign banks, said he has written a letter to the PM on this issue and his response is awaited.

In the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP in its campaign led by Modi had promised to bring back black money kept in tax havens. He had slammed the UPA for not taking effective action and accused it of shielding the corrupt. Even ater assuming power in May, the Modi government had pledged to fulfil its promise.

After resisting for over three years, the UPA government had on April 29 disclosed the names and documents of 26 Indians who have allegedly stashed money in LGT bank. In an affidavit, the then government said the Income Tax Department had completed its probe and launched prosecution against 17 people and abated proceedings against one who is dead. There was no evidence with regard to the rest, he said. It added that Germany handed over the list on March 18, 2009, but the government had refused to divulge the names as it had to honour the commitment under tax treaties.

Stating that the power to enter into pacts and treaties with foreign governments is an act solely within the domain of executive governments of sovereign nations, the NDA government told the apex court that the validity of such agreements having international ramifications would not be justiciable, being beyond the purview of judicial review.

According to the government, it would be inappropriate for the top court to order disclosure of names since the revelation of details of bank accounts of individuals, without establishment of wrongdoing, would be a violation of the right of privacy.

The apex court had appointed retired judges MB Shah as chairman and Arijit Pasayat as vice chairman of SIT for providing guidance and direction in the probe of all cases of black money in the country and abroad.