The government on Tuesday disclosed to the Supreme Court the names of 26 people who had accounts in banks in Liechtenstein, revealed to India by German authorities.
Eighteen of the people named by the Centre have allegedly stashed black money in Liechtenstein and against whom action has been initiated by income tax authorities.
A bench of justice HLDattu, justice Ranjana Prakash Desai and justice Madan B Lokur were given these names by Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran in two sealed covers.
The Centre also placed before the court names of people with respect to eight other cases in which it found no evidence of tax evasion and asked a bench headed by justice HL Dattu not to make public those names.
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As senior counsel Anil Divan urged the court that even these eight names should be disclosed, justice Dattu said that he along with justice Desai and justice Lokur will deliberate on the matter and take a call on this issue. The court said that it would hold the next hearing on Thursday.
Taking the court through the Indo-Germany Double Taxation Avoidance Convention and the Reciprocity Agreement, Solicitor General Parasaran said India could get these names only after a lot of effort and was under an obligation to maintain confidentiality.
He said that under the agreement, the information could only be disclosed to persons and authorities including courts and administrative bodies for the assessment and collection of taxes covered by the DTAC.
Parasaran said the disclosure of the information to the petitioner - senior counsel Ram Jethmalani - would amount to putting the information in public domain and may jeopardise India’s credibility with Germany and other countries with which it has double taxation avoidance agreement.
It may also compromise India’s credibility and ability to gather information from these countries in future, he added.
Divan, who appeared for Jethmalani, told the court that all these submissions by the government were advanced way back in 2011 and were rejected by the apex court by its July 4, 2011, verdict.
Jethmalani told the court that he had information that in Swiss banks alone the largest number of money launderers was from India and money to the tune of $1,500 billion (roughly Rs 90 lakh crore) had been stashed there. He said he would file an application in this regard on Wednesday.
Referring to previous letters of justice BP Jeevan Reddy expressing his inability to head the SIT that was set up by July 4, 2011 order of the apex court, the court said it would decide on the three names suggested by both sides for the appointment as chairman and deputy chairman of SIT.
The court was informed that the present deputy chairman, justice (retired) MB Shah was ready to head the committee and the three names suggested to the court were of judges who retired later than him. The court said that it would decide the same on next hearing on Thursday.
Eighteen names and the trusts associated with them are: Mohan Manoj Dhupelia, Ambrish Manoj Dhupelia, Bhavya Dhupelia (now Bhavya S. Shanbag), Manoj Dhupelia, Rupal Dhupelia (all Ambrunova Trust reg. & Marline Management S.A), Hansmukh Ishwarlal Gandhi, Chintan Hansmukh Gandhi, Madhu Hansmukh Gandhi, Late Mirav H. Gandhi (all Manichi Trust reg.), Chandrakant Ishwarlal Gandhi, Rajesh Chandrakant Gandhi, Viraj Chandrakant Gandhi, Dhanalaxmi Chandrakant Gandhi (all Ruvisha Trust reg.), Arunkumar Ramniklal Mehta, Harshad Ramniklal Mehta (both Dainese Stiftung and Dryade Stiftung), K.M.Mammen (Webster Foundation), Arun Kochhar (Urvashi Foundation) and Ashok Jaipuria (Raj Foundation).