Black money: SC irked over govt opposition to SIT

Govt faced the ire of the SC for opposing formation of a SIT to probe the case of black money as the court said it was needed because the agencies involved in the three-year probe have not gone into the source of the money.

Updated: Mar 30, 2011, 00:55 AM IST

New Delhi: Government on Tuesday faced the ire
of the Supreme Court for opposing formation of a Special
Investigating Team (SIT) to probe the case of black money as
the court said it was needed because the agencies involved in
the three-year probe have not gone into the source of the
money.

"That is the fundamental question (source of money) which
we have been asking and this has not been answered by the
agencies involved in the probe," a bench comprising justices B
Sudershan Reddy and SS Nijjar said while expressing their
dissatisfaction over the probe.

The Bench said it was favouring the constitution of SIT
as there was not substantial progress in the investigation
into the source of money.

"The manner in which it (investigation) has proceeded
since 2008 makes it clear that there has not been substantial
progress in the investigation. The speed at which the
investigation ought to have been done has not been done," it
said.

"Since 2008, you have known that certain individuals for
years have some kind of money abroad. Instead of looking
into that, you talked about double taxation treaty and this
treaty and that treaty. Simple questions you could have asked
those individuals were that from where you have got that money
which you have so far not answered," it said.

The bench said it has gone through various status
reports filed by ED but nowhere did it find any mention of
the sources of money.

Referring to the status report filed yesterday by the
government on ED`s probe, one of the judges said "I went
through it all night...reading the status report and the
interrogation report filed by you and I found that there was
no considerable effort to find out the sources of money. We
have found only three-four questions but we have not found
anything about the sources of money.

"It is not that they were foreigners. All of them were
here but in three years we find that you have not done
anything. It is more than three years. You have been
investigating it since 2008. The fundamental question is about
the sources of money," the bench said.

It also took into consideration of the allegation by
petitioners Ram Jethmalani and others that the Maharashtra
Police officer, who had prepared the CD on the interrogation
of Pune stud farm owner Hasan Ali Khan, has been suspended
after he sought permission to intervene in the matter in the
apex court.

The bench directed the government to place before it
by April 8, in a sealed cover, the CD and transcripts of
Khan`s statements recorded by police officer Ashok
Deshbhratar.

The court also directed the Union and the Maharashtra
governments to provide adequate protection to Hasan Ali Khan,
facing probe for allegedly stashing away black money abroad
and evading taxes, and his family.

It passed the order after perusing the letter written by
him to the ED expressing threat to his life and his family
members.

The apex court also asked the investigators to video-
record the statements of the accused and others taking part
in the investigation of the case.

During the hearing, Solicitor General Gopal Subramanian
told the court that the government was not at this juncture in
favour of constitution of a special investigation team (SIT)
to probe the case of black money being stashed away in foreign
banks and alleged money laundering by Khan.

Contending that the agencies, currently investigating the
case, should continue with their probe, Subramanian said the
court may form an SIT to probe the case later if the agencies
did not show result.

"At this juncture, an SIT should not be appointed. Wait
for some more time as the agencies are involved in examining
the matter. Any deflection at this point of time will prove
far more expensive," the Solicitor General said.

He said the government has no objection in principle to
video-recording the statements of the accused and witnesses
during the investigation process.

Besides the Enforcement Directorate probe in the black
money case, Khan is also facing a nearly Rs 70,000 crore tax
demand notice from the Income-Tax Department.

During the hearing, senior advocates Anil Divan and
Rajeev Dhawan, appearing for petitioners, former Union Law
Minister Ram Jethmalani and former super cop Julius Ribeiro
respectively, supported the idea of setting up an SIT to
investigate the matter.

They said the investigation should be handed over to
an SIT as the government itself has, through the Solicitor
General, confessed that ED officers involved in investigation
from top to bottom, were facing threats and needed protection
through a court direction.

They submitted there were questions as to whether the
officers carrying out the probe were the right people for the
job.

However, Subramanium tried to convince the bench there
was no reason to doubt upon the integrity of the officers
including the Director of Enforcement Directorate who himself
has been acting fast in probing the case.

He said there had been attempts to obfuscate the whole
issue and assured the bench that the allegations against the
ED officers were misconceived.

The Solicitor General, who was responding to the Bench
questions on various issues including the setting up of SIT,
said "the progress in the investigation should not be allowed
to regressed".

"There is no need for SIT at this point of time," he said
adding the bench can tell what has to be done after the next
status report is filed.

PTI