New Delhi: Lambasting the Centre for not
having the "will power" to act against black money hoarders,
the Supreme Court today asked why stud farm owner Hasan Ali
Khan and others were not subjected to custodial interrogation
despite the probe agencies possessing sufficient material.
"What the hell is going on in this country," the court
asked, while virtually snubbing Solicitor General Gopal
Subramanium when he tried to make certain submissions. The
court also said the alleged offenders were a "pampered lot".
Expressing strong displeasure at the manner in which
Khan and other alleged offenders were given repeated
opportunities for adjournments by the Enforcement Directorate,
the bench said the authorities were "hoodwinking" everybody
and wondered whether the same leniency would have been
extended to other petty offenders.
The court also ordered that three key ED officials
allegedly transferred midway into the probe in a case of
alleged foreign exchange violation by Hasan Ali Khan, the
Pune-based businessman, be reinstated forthwith.
A bench of justices B Sudershan Reddy and S S Nijjar
also indicated that if the government fails to act, it would
be compelled to appoint a special officer for supervising the
probe against the offenders.
The bench granted time till Tuesday to the Centre to
file its response failing which it said the court would be
constrained to pass necessary orders.
Subramanium`s repeated efforts to convince the court
about the goverment`s efforts to take action against the
offenders proved futile as the bench repeatedly queried
him as to why no custodial interrogation had so far taken
Khan, who is alleged to have stashed around USD 8
billion in foreign banks, had been earlier served a notice for
a tax demand for about Rs 50,000 crore in 2009.
"There are instances when minor offenders are shot
down for violating Section 144 CrPC (unlawful assembly), but
you don`t take any action against these people. We are very
sorry. All these people are now free," the bench remarked
voicing its dismay.
The apex court on February 10, while hearing a PIL
by noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani and some former bureaucrats for
recovery of black money stashed by Indians had asked the
government to ensure that Khan does not leave the country.
The court gave vent to its fury after senior counsel
Anil Divan appearing for Jethmalani submitted that the ED was
not taking steps to interrogate Khan and others, but was
instead giving them repeated adjournments.
"This manner they are hoodwinking everyone and giving
various reasons. Would you give the same facilitiy to accused
in lesser criminal cases? the bench asked adding "What the
hell is going on this country.
Solicitor General then said "I am concerned and have
my own dismay."
The bench then shot back " We understand your problem.
We know where you are standing from there you cannot do much."