SC directs govt to name all holders of foreign bank accounts tomorrow

Finance minister Arun Jaitley today said the government will place the list of Indians with foreign bank accounts with the Supreme Court tomorrow, after the apex court today directed the centre to reveal all names by Wednesday when it resumes hearing in the black money case.

"The government has no problem whatsoever about revealing the list to the court," Jaitley said.

"We had already put out the list to the government appointed SIT. But whether the names will be to the public is the court's decision," Jaitley said.

Jaitley's statement comes after the Supreme Court today directed the central government to reveal all the names of black money account holders by Wednesday.

Resuming hearing in the black money case, the SC said the order was passed in an open court and a new government cannot seek modifications to its order on disclosing names of account holders in foreign banks.

The SC directed the government to pass on all the information on account holders and that it would give orders for a further probe to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) accordingly.

''You don't have to have a protective umbrella for the (foreign bank) account holders...Doesn't matter even if confidentiality is being breached,'' a bench headed by CJI H L Dattu said, refusing to modify its earlier order to the government to reveal all names of foreign bank account holders.

''You please don't bother...You don't investigate. We will order the SIT to investigate...The Union of India need not do anything,'' the bench said, adding it would take the responsibility of issuing further directions in the matter.

The direction comes a day after the NDA government released eight names against whom it has started prosecutions for allegedly stashing black money in foreign banks. Three of them were said to have bank accounts in foreign banks.

Yesterday, the central government released eight names, which included Pradip Burman (former director of Dabur India Limited), Pankaj Chimanlal Lodhiya (chief promoter of Rajkot-based Shreeji Trading Company) and Goa-based mining company Timblo Private Limited and its five directors, against whom it has started prosecution for allegedly stashing black money in foreign banks (See: Black money list fails to impress; govt links naming to wrongdoing).

A 10-page additional affidavit, filed days after criticism that the government was chary of revealing names, also submitted that the government cannot disclose all the information and names of account holders in overseas banks, received from foreign countries, unless there is a "prima facie" evidence of wrongdoing for launching prosecution for tax evasion.

"The government is committed to disclose names of persons holding illegal money abroad. However, every account held by an Indian in a foreign country may not be illegal and the fundamental right of citizens to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution cannot be ignored and has been recognised by this court," it said, adding the names and information/ documents cannot be disclosed even under a proceedings under Article 32(1) of the Constitution.

However, the government came under criticism both from within and the opposition for being 'selective' in revealing the names.

The Supreme Court also questioned the government as to why it was providing a "protective umbrella" to foreign bank account holders.

"We can't leave the issue of bringing back black money to government. It will never happen during our time," the SC said in its judgement.