Skip to main content

Terms of reference of Modi govt's SIT on black money has "ignored" crucial directions by Supreme Court

MB Shah, head of SIT
By Our Representative
Terms of reference (ToR) for the new special investigation team (SIT) on black money, set by the Narendra Modi government, is learnt to have missed two crucial directions given by the Supreme Court in July 2011. The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), in a statement, has said that on page 66 of its judgement, the apex court had ordered that the SIT “must take over the investigation of individuals with bank accounts in Liechtenstein, as disclosed by Germany to India and expeditiously conduct the same”. At the same time, it had added, "The SIT should review concluded matters to assess whether investigations have been thoroughly and properly conducted, if they conclude is there a scope for further investigation”.
The CHRI says, “On May 1 the Government of India had said investigations had been concluded against 18 of the 26 individuals that had bank accounts in Liechtenstein. These names were received from Germany and investigation had concluded in 17 cases. No evidence was found against eight and the investigation had been concluded against them…" It insists, "Technically, the ToR should have included reopening of these cases to assess whether everything was properly done and if there is any need to proceed further.” Signed by Venkatesh Nayak, programme coordinator, CHRI, the statement adds, “The current ToR published in the gazette do not explicitly refer to these two directions.”
Welcoming the setting up of the SIT as “a reversal of previous government policy on this subject”, Nayak says, “The previous Government had opposed this direction despite a clear order from the Supreme Court in 2011.” Headed by Justice (retd) MB Shah with Justice Arijit Pasayat as vice-chair, Nayak regrets, however, “The rest of the members are the same ex-officio senior bureaucrats who were part of the High Level Committee set up by the previous government to look into the cases of persons who were said to have stashed away money in foreign banks abroad.”
“The SIT is an outcome of the directions of the Supreme Court of India in the matter of Ram Jethmalani and Ors. vs Union of India and Ors judgment delivered in July 2011. With the exception of the retired judges and bureaucrats of the finance ministry, all other members are representatives of organisations notified under the Second Schedule of the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act) which are not required to furnish any information other than that pertaining to allegations of corruption or violation of human rights”, Nayak points out, suggesting, this makes application of the RTI on SIT particularly important, especially when the SIT will be wholly financed by the Government of India.
The whole case, according to CHRI, was born because of an RTI application seeking “to disclose the names of the bank account-holders that Germany handed over to the Central Government”, Nayak says, adding, “The previous government adamantly refused to follow the directions of the court to hand over to the RTI petitioners the names of individuals against whom investigations had been completed wholly or partially.” Only “last month the Government of India handed over two sealed envelopes containing the names of the account-holders to the court”.
While the “court directed that the names be handed over to the petitioners”, the statement regrets, these names “have not been made public by the government, officially till date. There is no reference to this direction in the ToR of the SIT either. The NDA government could change policy in this regard as well and publicise the names contained in the sealed envelopes, as it would only be dutifully following the directions of the court. Such a step would demonstrate the NDA government's commitment to transparency as a real one going beyond mere public relations exercises.”
Pointing out that the case is particularly important for all RTI users and activists who receive rejection orders from Public Information Officers (PIOs) and First Appellate Authorities on the ground that contracts with private parties contain confidentiality clauses and cannot be disclosed under the RTI Act, the statement says, “In this case also the Government of India, under the UPA, refused to make the names of the account-holders public saying that Germany had handed over their names to Indian authorities under a tax agreement that contains a 'confidentiality' clause.”

Comments

TRENDING

US research: 40% of India's casteist Facebook posts are anti-reservation, anti-Dalit

By Rajiv Shah
A recent American civil society research has found that 40% of India's casteist posts on Facebook (FB) have anti-reservation slant. Asserting that the reservation policy in India is similar to affirmative action in the United States, the research study, titled "Facebook India: Towards The Tipping Point of Violence Caste and Religious Hate Speech", says, this type of hate content on FB is mainly directed against Dalits and Adivasis.

Sanjiv Bhatt paying price for deposing on Modi role in Gujarat riots: Wife Shweta

Counterview Desk
Following the Jamnagar sessions court ordering life imprisonment to former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt for his alleged involvement in three decades old custodial death case, his wife Shweta Bhatt has said that he has been sentenced for a “for a crime he did not commit”, even as criticizing the Indian Police Service (IPS) Association, Gujarat, for not standing up for him.

Senior advocates targeted because they took up cases against Amit Shah: Lawyers' NGO

Counterview Desk
The Lawyers Collective (LC), an NGO claiming to promote human rights issues, has expressed surprise at the latest move by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to register an FIR against the Lawyers Collective (LC), its president Anand Grover and unknown office bearers for alleged violation of the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA).

How Gujarat govt imposed curbs on livestock export for 'fear' of losing BJP vote share

By RK Misra*
Insidious are the ways authorities function, preaching one thing, practicing quite another. Administrative muscle-flexing to suit political goals was on display when the BJP-led Vijay Rupani government in Gujarat banned the export of livestock days ahead of Eid. Even the Narendra Modi-led government expressed its intent to confirm it countrywide, but stopped short of doing so.

One of the least peaceful countries, India's global peace ranking deteriorates: Report

By Rajiv Shah
A just-released report has asserted that India's ranking in the Global Peace Index (GPI) is 141st among 163 countries, deteriorating by four ranks in a year. Ranking 163 countries by providing a score to each, the report, prepared by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), headquartered in Sydney, Australia, has found India to be one of the least peaceful nations in the region.

Demand for Bharat Ratna to Dalai Lama as top RSS leader warns China of 'strong' action

Nava Thakuria*
Dharamshala: Indian supporters for a free Tibet have urged the Government of India to confer Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian honour, on the Tibetan spiritual leader, the 14th Dalai Lama, for his “immense contributions” in creating goodwill for India in the last six decades. A declaration, adopted at the 6th All-India Tibet Support Groups’ Conference held on June 15 and 16 in Dharamshala township of Himachal Pradesh, said that the Nobel laureate continues to be a holy ambassador of Indian culture enriched with non-violence, compassion and religious harmony.

Sabarmati 'cleaned up' swimming pool style: Untreated effluents discharged in river

Counterview Desk
In a fresh letter to the secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), Government of India, senior Gujarat environmentalists Rohit Prajapati and Krishnakant of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS) have taken strong objection to the recent clean-up drive of the about 11.3 km stretch of Sabarmati riverbed undertaken by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), terming it as “swimming pool type clean-up.” The river’s total length is 371 km.

Jharkhand mob lynching: Adivasis protest police 'inaction', FIR against victims

Counterview Desk
The Jharkhand Janadhikar Manch (JJM), a civil rights network, on Monday sponsored a protest against the police action against the Adivasi victims of the lynching which took on April 10, 2019, in Jurmu village of Dumri block in Gumla district of Jharkhand. The incident led the death of Prakash Lakda, aged 50.

Gujarat govt 'considers' temples, charitable institutions as shops and establishment

By Pankti Jog*
The Gujarat state assembly recently passed a new law which would "govern" the working condition of shops and establishments. One of the most talked about provisions of the Act is, it allow shops and establishments across Gujarat to function 24 hours.

There is no 'separate' Kashmir story, as there is for Afghanistan, Nepal, Tibet, Palestine

By Mohan Guruswamy*
Kashmir is the northernmost geographical region of South Asia. Until the mid-19th century, the term "Kashmir" denoted only the valley between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountain range. The name Kashmir derives from the Sanskrit Kashyapmeru. The Greeks knew it as Kaspeiria. Herodotus called it Kaspatyros.