Will raise public outcry on black money: Jethmalani to SC

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New Delhi, Jan 20: Senior counsel Ram Jethmalani told the Supreme Court on Tuesday that he will go to the people to create a public outcry if the government fails to respond to his draft legislation to curb the flight of unaccounted money to tax havens and bring back the already stashed away black money.

Jethmalani said this to a bench of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu, Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice A.K. Sikri at the end of a hearing of his application seeking steps to nail the people whose names have come to light for allegedly holding undisclosed overseas accounts.

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He said that on the suggestion of the SIT headed by former apex court judge M.B. Shah with Justice Arijit Pasayat as its vice chairman, he drafted the legislation and sent its copy to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and also to the SIT.

He regretted that till date, he has not heard anything from Modi.

"I want to know their attitude before I go the people," Jethmalani told the court.

"I am recovering money not for myself, it is public money. They (government) will have to make up their mind."

He told the court that without passing the legislation, no money stashed away in tax havens would ever come back. "They (government) have to clarify what is their attitude."

"I want to create a public outcry if they don't want to do anything," Jethmalani told the court.

Appearing for Jethmalani, counsel Anil Divan told the court that except for reports of some properties being attached here or there, none of the stashed away money has come back.

The court told Divan he should make his suggestions before the SIT.

The court also permitted counsel Prashant Bhushan to make his suggestions before the SIT for its consideration.

The court had July 4, 2011, ordered the setting up of the SIT but the notification was issued May 29, 2014.

The court said the SIT would consider these suggestions - mainly aimed at recovering the money stashed in overseas banks - in accordance with the law of the land.

The court said the SIT would communicate its views to the court on these suggestions in a sealed cover.

The court gave Jethmalani and the others two weeks' time to make their suggestions before the SIT.

When Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the court it had already permitted Jethmalani and others to go to the SIT, Chief Justice Dattu said "we are reiterating our earlier order".

Rohatgi said going before the SIT could not be an evolving situation.

He said the tax assessment of all the people whose names have come to the government from various sources would be completed by March 31, 2015 - a deadline committed by the government to complete the task.

Rohatgi contested Divan's submission that no money has come back, and told the court: "My friend is wrong that no money has come. Some have admitted and paid taxes and penalties."

Meanwhile, the SIT has suggested that the offences relating to tax evasion be made penal offences under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, attracting punitive action.

The SIT told the court that the Central Board of Direct Taxes, which was examining as to which provision of the Income Tax Act should be brought within the ambit of penal offences, should complete the exercise by March 2015.

The SIT said such a provision would be in line with statutory provisions followed by 25 countries including the US, Canada and Australia.

Seeking the setting up of five additional chief judicial magistrate courts in Mumbai to deal with over 5,000 pending cases of income tax violations, the SIT sought amendment in the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 for the attachment of properties within the country that would be equivalent to the value of overseas assets held by the FEMA offender.

The Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) provides for the confiscation of the properties if found to be held abroad in violation of section 4 of the Act.

The SIT has also recommended a ceiling on the cash holding, curbing the menace of bogus bills and setting up of a unit on the lines of Trade Transparency Unit, set up in the US for tallying of import-export data with foreign governments to control trade-based money laundering.

IANS

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