The Supreme Court today asked the Centre to ensure that the ongoing income tax probe for suspected black money concerning 627 Indians who have accounts in HSBC bank, Geneva, do not get time barred and be completed by March next year.
The court also said that if for any reasons the probe remains inconclusive, the Centre will take appropriate decision to extend the deadline of March 31, 2015.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu also asked the apex court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the cases of black money to consider the plea for furnishing certain information and correspondences received by it to the petitioners without “blackening” the contents.
Eminent jurist Ram Jethmalani, who is one of the petitioners in the matter, submitted that the then Solicitor General in the previous UPA government Mohan Parasaran, had supplied some letters and documents after masking certain portions.
The bench, also comprising Justices M B Lokur and A K Sikri, accepted another plea of Jethmalani’s counsel Anil Divan that the SIT headed by Justice M B Shah, should consider the plea for providing him the copies of the reports of its probe into the black money cases.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi responded to the pleas saying that he would not say “no” for supplying the copies of the reports submitted by the SIT and also assured that the issue of time bar would not arise in the tax probe for suspected black money.
“We are aware of it and there would not be any problem as now the prosecution for tax evasion can be initiated upto 16 years of commission of the offence,” he said.
The bench, in its order, said, “we are confident that the proceedings before the income tax department will be completed by March 31, 2015 and if for any reasons it is not completed, we are confident that appropriate decision will be taken”.
Rohatgi said he was not aware as to why certain portions of documents supplied to previous UPA regime was “blackened”.
While the issue of masking certain portions of documents was being deliberated, the bench said, “the dates and designation of officers are there and if you will try you can make out everything”.
The bench, which posted the next hearing for January 20, said for all his grievances, Jethmalani can make representation before the SIT which will consider the plea.
At the end of the hearing, activist advocate Prashant Bhushan raised the issue of disclosing names of 250 people who admitted to holding accounts in foreign banks but let off after tax proceedings.
However, after the Attorney General said his intervention application has not been allowed as yet, the bench said his plea cannot be addressed by it.
Jethmalani said, “see the tragedy of a person trying to recover the black money for the country. I am sitting in opposition. This is the tragedy of the country”.
Rohatgi said the court was not the proper forum for raising such issue.
The Centre on October 29 had given to the apex court a list of 627 Indians who have accounts in HSBC bank, Geneva, in which tax probe for suspected black money has to be completed by March next year.
The documents containing correspondence with French authorities, names of the account holders and the status report of the probe conducted so far in black money cases were submitted in separate sealed covers by the Attorney General which the apex court had not opened.
Instead, the court had said the envelopes would be opened by Chairman M B Shah and Vice Chairman Arijit Pasayat, both former judges of the Supreme Court, who are part of the court-appointed SIT, and decide on future course of action.
It had asked the SIT to conduct a probe against the account holders and submit its status report of its probe as expeditiously as possible.
The Centre had submitted that almost half of the account holders are resident Indians who could be prosecuted under the Income Tax laws and rest of them are NRIs.
Rohatgi had said some of the account holders have already admitted to having accounts and having paid taxes.
Rohatgi had said that details of account holders are of 2006 which were supplied by the French government to the Centre in 2011. Most transactions in those accounts took place during 1999 and 2000 and the last date for completion and assessment in all these cases is March 31, 2015.
He had said the IT Act has been amended. Instead of six years, now the prosecution for tax evasion can be initiated upto 16 years of commission of the offence, he had said.