The Supreme Court on Friday embarrassed the government by repeatedly questioning its reluctance to disclose names of Indian nationals who have allegedly deposited “black money” in foreign banks.
“What is the difficulty in disclosing the information?” the bench comprising Justice B Sudershan Reddy and Justice SS Nijjar asked Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium during the hearing of a petition filed by eminent lawyer Ram Jethmalani. The court’s poser came when Subramanium informed it that the government had details of such investors, but, could not reveal it.
The bench further asked him: “What is the privilege you are claiming for not disclosing the information.” It stated that stashing of black money in foreign accounts was “not just a case of tax evasion,” but, was “more than that.”
The court’s persistent queries forced Subramanium to submit that he would take instructions from the government with reference to the names of the Indian nationals holding bank accounts in foreign banks.
The court even suggested making the persons who are named in the list, given by the government to the court in a sealed cover, party in the case. “If the names of the account holders are before us, then why not implead them in the case. Let them come and explain,” the court said.
Though Jethmalani’s counsel, senior advocate Anil Diwan, had no objections to it, he informed the court that he did not have the identity of such persons as the government had refused to share the information. Diwan, however, pointed out that if the court could issue the notice on its own.
Subramanium did not appear in favour of the court’s suggestion. He, instead, offered to place status reports on any individual. “There is no difficulty in giving status report. We are committed to our position that there have been tax avoidance cases,” he told the court.
Jethmalani, along with some retired bureaucrats and police officers approached the SC seeking directions to the government to take steps to bring black money stashed in foreign bank back to the country.