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SC stings Centre for black money inertia

New Delhi, March 26: Judges and others would not have to pay taxes if the estimated Rs 70,000 crore in black money stashed in foreign banks was brought back to the country, the Supreme Court said today, accusing the Centre of not taking the necessary steps since Independence.

“If the money is recovered, people in the country may perhaps need not pay taxes. We (judges) also need not pay 30 per cent taxes,” Justice H.L. Dattu, heading a three-judge bench, remarked, dismissing an application moved by the Centre urging the court not to monitor an SIT probe it had ordered on July 4, 2011, on a PIL filed by prominent lawyer Ram Jethmalani.

The bench, which included Justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and Madan B. Lokur, said the Centre knew where the money was stashed but had not made an effort to get it back in over six decades.

“This is not a normal situation. This is an unusual situation. Since 1947, nobody thought of taking back the money. But after 65 years at least, in 2011, a citizen came to this court and complained that the economy of the country is being destroyed,” it said. “We must be grateful to Mr Jethmalani for making this court realise that dream.”

Solicitor-general Mohan Parasaran had argued that the court should not monitor the probe because the situation “is normal” and the government’s empowered agencies, the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate, were competent to handle the situation.

The SIT, with former Supreme Court judge Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy as chairperson, was set up to investigate allegations of black money and attempt to bring it back. It was to report only to the court and not to government agencies, as is usual.

Justice Dattu, who will take over as the Chief Justice of India in September, observed: “Mr Ram Jethmalani’s main grievance is money deposited outside the country has not been brought back. If this money is brought back, it will definitely help the people.

“The court feels you have failed in doing this and hence appointed a former judge of this court to head the team. Efforts made by this court is in the interest of the country. If you hadn’t failed we would not have passed such a direction.”

The solicitor-general said concrete action had been taken in the form of prosecution of two of the alleged offenders, Hassan Ali and Kanshiram Tapuria.

However, the court was not impressed with the argument and asked: “What is the difficulty in implementation (of the 2011 order)?

“Were you not aware where the black money was deposited? You know very well. Even if you have taken some steps, this court as the highest court of the country and as a constitutional court can pass such an order.”