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Centre against SIT on black money

As per the SC`s direction, statements of those accused in black money cases will be video-recorded.



New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday
directed the Union and the Maharashtra governments to provide
adequate protection to Pune stud farm owner Hasan Ali Khan,
facing probe for allegedly stashing away black money abroad
and evading taxes, and his family.

The apex court also asked the investigators to video-
record the statements of the accused and witnesses as part of
the probe into the case.
A bench of justices B Sudershan Reddy and S S Nijjar
directed the government to place before it by April 8, in a
sealed cover, the CD and transcripts of 53-year-old Khan`s
statements recorded by suspended Maharashtra police officer
Ashok Deshbhratar.

The court gave the order after the government
responded to its posers on various issues, including security
for Khan.

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 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
in 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 proceedings, the bench said it favoured the
constitution of an SIT as for the last three years, the
agencies probing the matter have not gone into the fundamental
question of the sources of money and it has remained
unanswered.

"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
observed.

"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 the ED but nowhere did it find any mention of
the sources of money.

Referring to the status report filed yesterday by the
government on the 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.

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

PTI

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