SC slams Centre, tells it to list all with foreign accounts

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Oct 29 2014, 07:44am hrs
Supreme CourtSupreme Court on Tuesday gave it an ultimatum to disclose the names of all Indians who hold foreign bank accounts. (PTI)
Slamming the government for seeking modification of its order on the black money issue, the Supreme Court on Tuesday gave it an ultimatum to disclose the names of all Indians who hold foreign bank accounts by Wednesday morning, reports fe Bureau in New Delhi. Finance minister Arun Jaitley told reporters later the government would give the list in a sealed envelope.

A bench headed by Chief Justice HL Dattu directed the government to reveal to it all information received from various foreign banks. As the government cited the confidentiality clause in international treaties that prevented it from revealing information on Indians foreign bank accounts with untaxed funds till charges are filed in a court of law, the court directed it to pass on the information even if it amounts to breach of (the) clause.

We cannot touch our 2011 order and we wont change even a word of it... New regime at (the) Centre cant ask modification of order when it was passed in an open court and accepted

by the government,

the court said.

By its 2011 order, the court had asked the government to reveal names of Indians with foreign bank accounts once the probes were concluded, that is, even without launch of prosecution. The government has since argued that such a commitment to the court would not only breach secrecy clauses in international treaties but would come in the way of signing of new information-sharing pacts that are essential for gathering relevant information in the first place.

Why are you trying to protect people having bank accounts in foreign countries... Whatever you have got, you first give it to us. You do not do anything. You don't have to verify. Just pass information of account holders to us and we will pass order for any probe to be done by (special investigation team)or any other agency including CBI and income tax department... SIT will take all the trouble. Let (the) Union government cooperate with the SIT and the court, the CJI directed. Don't investigate. You give it to us. We will take the trouble. You pass on the information even if it amounts to breach of confidentiality clause, the apex court said.

Jaitley told reporters: The government shall place the list before the court because the government has already given it to the court-constituted SIT. The government is keen that by whatever procedure in accordance with law we must get to the root of the matter. The minister said the government will do everything to bring back the black money as well as to punish all illicit foreign account holders.

The apex court diktat came a day after the Centre on Monday revealed eight names, which included consumer products giant Dabur India promoter Pradip Burman, Rajkot-based bullion trader Pankaj Chamanlal Lodhiya, Goa mining company Timblo Private Ltd and five of its directors Radha Satish Timblo, Chetan S Timblo, Rohan S Timblo, Anna C Timblo and Mallika R Timblo. Prosecution has been launched against all eight.

The bench brushed aside the contentions of attorney general Mukul Rohatgi that disclosing account holders' names would violate their right to privacy of those who may have legitimate accounts and the names can be revealed only after a prima facie case of tax evasion is made out.

The Centre's affidavit filed on Monday also said every account held by an Indian in a foreign bank may not be illegal and the fundamental right to privacy under Article 21 should be upheld.

Senior apex court lawyer and main petitioner in the black money case, Ram Jethmalani, slam-med the Centre over the revelations, saying the big fish involved in the case were not revealed. It is a case of mountain in labour producing a mouse, he said.