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Black money PIL: Government ‘dilly-dallies’, won’t do anything, says Divan

Exclusive: Senior advocate Anil Divan, whose public interest litigation (PIL) with Ram Jethmalani and others over the problem of black money stashed abroad, has slammed the government for equating the problem to mere tax evasion while commenting on the future of the case concerning up to Rs 70 lakh crore ($1.4trn) of wealth that is believed to be parked by Indians in foreign banks and tax havens.

Divan told Legally India: “In the Supreme Court we’ve asked for an application that they should be directed to disclose the information. The money which has been stashed in foreign accounts may be from corruption, criminal gangs, may be used for terrorist funding and there also may be other illegal activities which has nothing to do with mere tax evasion, so government is only talking of tax evasion because they’re covering it up. That’s what’ve said in the court.”

“And therefore, they’re not interested in disclosing whatever their reasons are. So how do you know unless you’ve found out first that it in relation to tax without making any effort to find out?” he asked. “They don’t find out - like all the other scams they don’t want to do anything.”

“In the next hearing the government may furnish more information. I’ve already said it in open court that they’re only interested in dilly-dallying and delaying on some grounds or the other,” added Divan. “They don’t want the matter to proceed and they’ve been delaying right from April 2009.”

Jethmalani was unavailable for comment when contacted by Legally India.

The Supreme Court yesterday shrugged aside the Government of India’s DTAA (Double Taxation Avoidance Treaty) plea while hearing the petition, retorting that black money stashed by Indians in foreign banks amounted to the plundering of the nation’s wealth and was an issue of national security also.

"It is a pure and simple theft of the national money. We are talking about mind-boggling crime. We are not on the niceties of various treaties," a division bench comprising justices B Sudershan Reddy and S S Nijjar observed in response to solicitor general Gopal Subramanium’s offer to explain why there has been delay in procuring information pertaining to foreign accounts of Indian nationals, according to various media reports.

The bench also reiterated the apex court’s prerogative of widening the scope of the writ petition in the public interest to enquire about information of other bank accounts in reply to Subramanium’s contention that the government had received information on 26 account bearers of a German bank.

The court made its displeasure evident after the 14 January hearing in which it found that the government appeared reluctant to disclose names of Indians with money stashed in foreign banks.

The petition had been filed by senior advocate and parliamentarian Ram Jethmalani, senior advocate Anil B Divan and KPS Gill.

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