Supreme Court judges hearing a case regarding black money parked abroad observed that “the nation’s sovereignty is at stake” and those who have kept illicit money should be arrested and “custodially interrogated”.
The judges asked the central government why Hasan Ali Khan, one of the persons named during the investigation, was not arrested and not interrogated even after two years of the disclosure. “On the one side, you hunt down ordinary people who have committed small offences, you shoot down minor offenders; on the other, you do not even question the black money hoarders; the bigger the amount, the greater the facility you give them,” the bench, comprising Justices Sudershan Reddy and S S Nijjar, remarked.
The judges also told Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium that three officers of the Enforcement Directorate who have reportedly been tracing the dirty money and who have been transferred to other departments should be reinstated immediately. They indicated that if the government failed to act, it would be compelled to appoint a special officer for supervising the probe against the offenders. At one stage, the judges asked, “what the hell is going on in this country?” The court was hearing a writ petition moved by former law minister Ram Jethmalani, seeking the disclosure of the names of those who have stashed away money in tax havens and demanding steps to bring the money back to the country.
He said that one officer who was removed from the investigations, has disclosed the whole story in an affidavit before the Central Administrative Tribunal. Jethmalani added that “The money belonged to the rulers of the country”.
Subramanium submitted the status of the investigation in a sealed envelope to the court. The judges remarked that the contents revealed the very serious nature of the case.
The solicitor general stated that some details could not be disclosed because of the international double taxation treaty. Anil Divan, who argued for the petitioner, stated that this case was not about tax evasion, but related to arms deals, narcotics and terrorism. These have nothing to do with income tax. The government is covering up this fact to evade its responsibility to catch the culprits. The arguments will continue next week after the government’s written reply.