SC 'satisfied' as SIT submits first report on black money abroad

21 August 2014

The Supreme Court on Wednesday expressed satisfaction with the steps taken to recover illicit black money stashed abroad by Indians, after its Special Investigative Team (SIT) on the issue submitted its first report in the court.

The court also permitted the petitioner in the case, Ram Jethmalani, to interact with the SIT on the nuances of the case and on how the money can be brought back. However, the bench headed by H L Dattu declined to allow the petitioner access to the SIT report.

The top court requested the SIT to proceed with its work and asked the centre to respond on the letter written by Jethmalani to German authorities as well as detail the measures taken by the government so far in the case.

The court ordered the SIT reports to be kept in sealed covers in the registry. It rejected the request of petitioner and former law minister Jethmalani and his counsel Anil Divan that they be allowed to see the reports. These reports ''purely confidential'', the court said.

 According to some TV reports, the SIT report is believed to have recommended an overhaul of bilateral tax treaties, and stringent provisions in the money laundering law such as giving powers to the Enforcement Directorate to attach properties abroad.

The reports also suggested the SIT had identified mining and real estate as two major sectors generating black money.

Jethmalani said he had visited Germany, corresponded with authorities in that country and received a reply from them. That correspondence would be given to the SIT, he added.

Divan said the double taxation agreement between India and Germany had nothing to do with this case, as the black money stashed abroad was ill-gotten and unaccounted for. What was relevant was the United Nations convention on corruption, he said, adding the convention had also been followed by European countries.

Additional Solicitor General Neeraj Kishan Kaul told the bench that the government would implement whatever the court ordered.

The court, in its order, allowed Jethmalani and Divan to interact with the SIT members on the ''nuances'' of the case and the ''possible ways of getting back the black money'', adding they could only suggest the ''means and method, and nothing beyond that''.

Adjourning the matter to 11 November, it asked the SIT to proceed with the task given to it in earlier orders and submit more status reports.

 The court had set up the SIT, headed by retired Supreme Court judge M B Shah, in July 2011.

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