New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday pulled up the government for doing nothing to comply with its July 2011 order directing it to disclose the names of Indians who have stashed away money in foreign banks. located in Liechtenstein.
The details of Indian account holders in banks of Liechtenstein, a landlocked country in central Europe bordering Switzerland and Austria, were furnished to the government by Germany.
Describing the centre’s conduct as “contemptuous”, the bench of Justice H.L. Dattu, Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai and Justice Madan B. Lokur said the government has used the shield of review petition to put in cold storage the directions of the court issued July 4, 2011.
“This order was passed in 2011. In the name of the review petition, you (government) don’t carry out our orders. This is nothing but contempt of court,” said Justice Dattu, taking exception to Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran’s submission that four directions of July 2011 order had to be read in conjunction and not separately.
The court made it clear that at no stage, the operation of July 2011 was stayed and it was incumbent upon the government to continue with the investigation.
The apex court by its July 2011 order directed the centre to furnish to petitioners and counsel Ram Jethmalani and others “forthwith” all those “documents and information which they have secured from Germany” in connection with Indian account holders in banks of Liechtenstein.
Rejecting the plea by Solicitor General Parasaran that the first direction could not be read without the direction that provides for a Special Investigation Team (SIT), the court said the use of word “forthwith” itself says that the information secured from Germany has to be provided to Jethmalani and others immediately without waiting for any other outcome.
“You have to furnish the information provided by Germany ‘forthwith’ and not after the investigation by the SIT. Forthwith means now. Where does the SIT come into the picture? We will clarify the order if you want to take instructions (from the finance ministry),” the court said, making clear its displeasure at the way the government chose to sit on its orders.
Saying there was no ambiguity in the four directions issued by the court July 4, 2011, the bench said each of the directions had to be seen independently and not together.
Adjourning the matter till April 29, the court asked Solicitor General Parasaran to take instructions from the government on what it intends to do for complying with the directions of the court without waiting for the SIT coming into existence.
The court also asked both the petitioners – Jethmalani and Parasaran – to suggest a common name to be appointed as chairman of the SIT after it took on record two communications sent by Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy expressing his inability to function as the SIT head.
The court asked both sides to ascertain whether Justice M.B. Shah – the vice chairman of the SIT – would like to step into the shoes of Justice Reddy.
In any case, the court said both the parties have to suggest a replacement and it would be better that the suggested name was common to both of them.