Taking a U-Turn on the issue of “Black Money”, the Narendra Modi government on Friday filed an application in the Supreme Court, saying it cannot disclose details of foreign accounts held by Indians which are governed by bilateral double taxation avoidance treaties.
In its application, the Centre said that the foreign countries have objected to disclosing such information and if such details are revealed then no other country would sign such an agreement with India.
The Attorney General of India Mukul Rohatgi mentioned the issue and pleaded for an urgent hearing. He said the revelation of names of Liechtenstein Bank account holders has been seriously objected to by the German government. He also said the government is on the verge of signing important double taxation avoidance treaties with many countries, including the US in December.
Responding to the Centre’s stand, senior advocate and petitioner in the case, Ram Jethmalani, accused the Narendra Modi government of shielding those who stashed black money abroad.
Jethmalani said such a plea could be made only by crooks who have illegally parked their ill-gotten money abroad and not by a democratically elected government.
The opposition Congress also hit at the Modi government, accusing it of double standards in the matter. “This shows double standards of the present government,” party leader Anand Sharma said.
Interestingly, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in a 2011 report, had estimated India’s black economy to be worth around $500 billion and $1.4 trillion (between Rs. 30 lakh crore and Rs. 84 lakh crore).
Earlier, the Apex Court had appointed its retired judges MB Shah as Chairman and Arijit Pasayat as the Vice Chairman of the SIT for providing guidance and direction in the investigation of all cases of black money in the country and abroad.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has tried to justify the move, saying “Tax pact signed by Congress govt in 1995 with Germany is constraining Centre from declaring names of persons having black money account”. He further clarified that the government is not reluctant to reveal the names of account holders in accordance with the existing law. Those details can’t be revealed till chargesheet has been filed in the court, he added.