The apex court said the quantum of money in foreign banks was a rough measure of “weakness” and “softness” of the nation. Besides Justice Reddy, a former apex court judge, who will be the chairman of the Special Investigation Team (SIT), the apex court also appointed its former judge, Justice M B Shah as the vice-chairman of the panel.
The apex court converted the existing high-level committee (HLC), constituted by the centre, into the SIT. The Committee to be chaired by the former apex court judge Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy will have Justice M.B. Shah as its vice-Chairman.
During the course of the hearing of the petition seeking retrieval of the black money stashed away to tax havens, the Centre had set up a HLC that included Secretary, Department of Revenue, as the Chairman, and Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India, Director (IB), Director, Enforcement, Director, CBI, Chairman, CBDT, DG, Narcotics Control Bureau, DG, Revenue Intelligence, Director, Financial Intelligence Unit, and Joint Secretary (FT & TR-I), CBDT as its members.
An apex court bench of Justice B. Sudershan Reddy and Justice S.S. Nijjar also directed the central government to forthwith disclose the names of people holding accounts in LGT bank in Liechtenstein — a principality in Europe bordering Switzerland and Austria — as disclosed to it by German authorities.
The court, however, made it clear that the authorities would not disclose the names of those who have not been investigated in connection with deposits made in foreign banks including Liechtenstein bank.
The court passed the order on a petition filed by eminent jurist Ram Jethmalani and others seeking directions to the government to track black money stashed away abroad and bring it back.
The apex court directed the government to issue notification forthwith regarding the appointment of SIT and ordered that government machinery to cooperate with it. The bench, while passing the order, made some hard-hitting observation against the Centre for its failure to take proper action against people who have illegally stashed away money in foreign banks.
The bench said that it was a serious lapse on the part of the government which will have implications on the country’s external and internal security.
“We must express serious reservation on the steps taken by the government…It’s clear to us that investigation was completely stalled and expedited only after the court’s intervention.
“It was only upon this court’s insistence that proper investigation was conducted,” the bench said while referring to Pune stud farm owner Hasan Ali Khan’s case.
“There was much to be desired,” the court said, adding there was a need for it to get involved in the case.