The Supreme Court is irked as the probe into black money is currently centred only around Pune-based stud farm owner Hassan Ali Khan. It has directed the government to it to track the more "serious" aspect of source of money by incorporating the angle of national security
New Delhi: The Supreme Court today flayed the government for focussing its probe only around Pune stud owner Hassan Ali Khan in the black money case and directed it to track the more "serious" aspect of source of money by incorporating the angle of national security, reports PTI.
"No further information is forthcoming from you. The whole concentration is focussed only on one individual. What about others?" a bench of justices B Sudershan Reddy and SS Nijjar asked.
"We would like to know what progress has been made by you in each case (relating to black money). We would also like to know from you on the next hearing the progress made in the investigation from the national security aspect and what is the source of such money which is a more serious aspect," it said.
The bench, which perused the 14-page status report (submitted in a sealed cover) on the probe by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), expressed shock over the revelation made in the report in which the name of a "power broker" was mentioned.
"It is very difficult to be calm and quiet after seeing the status report," the judges remarked.
The government, which has been facing a tough time in the apex court on the issue of black money, said there has been "substantial breakthrough" in the investigation.
It expressed concern over the security threat being faced by the investigators by telling the bench that there was a need for providing protection to all the officers of the ED involved in the case.
Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam said he cannot disclose the names of officers involved in the probe. He said the government has also taken seriously the statements of 53-year-old Mr Khan who has expressed threat to his life and his family members.
He said the probe into the case of Mr Khan has revealed that it was not simply a case of forgery of passport but a case with far more serious implications.
"This is not simply a forgery of passport. It is a case with far more implications. Why did the passport disappear," Mr Subramaniam said while replying in the affirmative that another person, a Kolkata-based businessman Kashinath Tapuria, who was associated with Mr Khan, has been arrested.
"Why all these agencies were sleeping since 2008? Why it moved when we stepped in? If a writ petition had not been filed, nothing would have happened," the bench observed after the Solicitor General made submissions in the case lodged against Mr Khan in 2008.
Besides the ED probe, Mr Khan is also facing a nearly Rs70,000 crore tax demand notice from the Income Tax Department.
The bench also wanted to know why the government was claiming privilege and not favouring to disclose the names of the persons which have surfaced during the course of the probe.
"Tell us why are you are claiming privilege. Why not they (names of people) be disclosed. Let the people of the country know what is happening. Now there is no privilege on one name (Hassan Ali Khan). People have come to know everything," the bench said.
Mr Khan's counsel and senior advocate UU Lalit said, "He (Mr Khan) has been made a scapegoat."
The court reiterated its idea of setting up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) comprising officers of the Intelligence Bureau, Research and Analysis Wing, Central Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement Directorate to probe the entire issue related to the black money stashed away in banks abroad.
However, the Solicitor General said it would be too early to consider setting up of an SIT and sought one more chance to satisfy the court about the progress of investigation.
"At this juncture wait for another status report. Look at another status report and see what area can be bifurcated among different agencies," he told the bench which accepted his plea.
Mr Subramaniam said in probing the issue of black money, the sole consideration is the public interest and impending aspect of national security.
The court was hearing a PIL seeking retrieval of black money stashed away by Indian citizens in banks abroad. The PIL had been filed by former Union law minister Ram Jethmalani.
During the last hearing on 18th March, too, the apex court had toyed with the idea of forming an SIT to probe the malady of Indian black money in foreign banks and had asked the Centre to come up with its take on possible composition of such a team.
"In principle, do you have any objection to setting up of an SIT to look into the matter?" the bench had asked the government, while observing, "We are not talking about one case but many cases are involved in it. This is much wider."
Assembly elections in Assam, Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal are expected to be completed by May after which the government will take a call on hiking fuel prices
New Delhi: The government today hinted that petrol and diesel prices are unlikely to be hiked in haste, even though global crude oil prices continue to rule at the uncomfortable level of $110 a barrel, reports PTI.
State-run Indian Oil Corporation, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation and Bharat Petroleum Corporation currently sell petrol, a commodity which the government freed from its control in June last year, at a discount of about Rs4.50 a litre to its imported cost.
Diesel, whose price is still controlled by the government, is sold at a loss of Rs15.79 a litre or Rs283 crore per day.
"I think oil companies must be watching global markets, which is today characterised by unusual volatility. They will in good time take a view," oil minister S Jaipal Reddy told reporters here.
He was asked why the deregulated price of petrol has not moved in tandem with the international cost.
"As far as petrol is concerned, there is no doubt it is decontrolled... Oil companies must be watching global markets and will take studied decision (on raising prices)," he said.
On diesel, he said "it is too early" to call a meeting of the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee to decide on raising rates.
"Everybody is busy (with electioneering)... let us wait for some time," he said.
The basket of crude oil that India buys has averaged $110.61 per barrel this month as against $72-$73 a barrel at the time of the last revision in diesel prices in June 2010.
In all probability, petrol and diesel prices may not be hiked till assembly elections in Assam, Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal are completed in May.
"Since June, the oil companies have chewed up about Rs2,000 crore losses on selling petrol below cost. Rs400 crore is what these companies will lose in March alone," an industry official said.
The three firms had last hiked petrol price by Rs2.50 on 15th January. Since deregulation of rates in June, the rates have gone up about Rs7 per litre in five instalments to Rs58.37 per litre.
Besides petrol, the three retailers are losing a record Rs15.79 a litre on diesel, Rs24.74 per litre on kerosene and Rs297.80 per 14.2-kg LPG cylinder.
The three firms are losing cumulative Rs432 crore in revenue every day on selling diesel, domestic LPG and kerosene below cost, the official said.
"For the full fiscal, the three are projected to lose Rs78,061 crore in revenues at current prices," he said.
India is the world’s youngest democracy, but six decades after the republic was set up, it is high time the populace gets the governance it deserves. Our democracy has matured enough, but corruption is a deep-rooted malaise
Over a decade back, in 2000, on the occasion of the golden jubilee of the Indian Republic, then President KR Narayanan, quoted John Dryden, when he sternly warned that "Beware of the fury of the patient, long-suffering people." Dryden's saying equally applies to the Indian aam janata of today.
Even after 11 years down the line, in 2011, Dryden's sane warning has not yet driven home the message to our elected representatives, bureaucrats and business czars. The economic gains instead of trickling downwards to the underprivileged are being corned by the powers-that-be- with the rich growing richer, and the poor be damned!
Economist SS Tarapore, a former RBI deputy governor, rightly points out: "Given the large number of the poor in our country, a 6%-7% sustained growth with 3%-4% inflation would be preferable to a 9% growth with 9%-10% inflation."
But our GDP growth seems to be on track, but inflation shows no sign of abating.
During a hearing into the 2G spectrum case, the Supreme Court bench rightly remarked -"We have a large number of persons who think they are the law. The law must catch them. Post-liberalisation, globalisation and privatisation, the government is dragging its feet on getting back the black wealth stashed abroad, even when the Swiss authorities have come forward to furnish the wrongdoers' names, but it (the Centre) is busy organizing cover-ups. Never before has free India witnessed such serious charges of corruption and wrongdoings of rampant loot of precious national resources by those in authority involved in blatant cover-ups with plain untruths-even challenging the findings of constitutional bodies like the CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) who have reported the spectrum fraud of Rs. 1.76 lakh crores and ISRO with Rs2 lakh crore."
However, the prime minister is not necessarily monetarily corrupt. History has it that the French, American and Russian Revolutions were caused when the peoples' power rose in full fury. The sub-prime crisis that caused the massive financial meltdown in the US brought about the state intervention via 'socialisation' into the heart of free market capitalism-the United States of America, when the free market professing US Administration/State perforce pumped in billions to bail out "stressed" banks and big businesses. This infection in turn hit hard Europe via the PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain) economies.
There is rise in unemployment, galloping inflation and growing bankruptcies all taking their economies into a spiral-and giving the European 'Union' a serious setback.
You could say: Mera Bharat mahaan, hum sub hai pareshaan kyo ki 99% hai beimaan! (Our country is great, but we are all helpless, because 99% are hopeless).
Our national Budgets get passed-without debates.
Charges of corruption are flying thick and fast, hardly reviving old issues and adding newer ones reaching the highest echelons-FIRs against former Union ministers, the State CM, two army and one navy chief -along with other top army brass involved in 'the Flats-for-Kargil' scam, the Commonwealth Games scandal… this is a very long list. A senior counsel, filing a PIL (public interest litigation) in the Supreme Court alleges that eight Chief Justices of India are corrupt.
Corporate bigwigs have been caught red-handed trying to stall further exposures citing "invasion of individual privacy" in the spectrum-for-sale scandal, when they themselves are found to blatantly infringe public space by jumping queues to corner spectrums.
They do not hesitate to perpetuate corruption via multi-crore corporate public relations lobbyists. They ship payments to corporate lobbyists to swing deals in their favour, and yet complain of 'sleepless nights' over demands of Rs15 crore for setting up a new domestic airline. The company failed to deposit the entry fee, furnish bank guarantees and sign licence agreements for which they sought and were given several extensions. Nobody challenges another corporate head when he publically pointed out that there is a definite nexus between business and politicians.
Swapan Dasgupta, a veteran political commentator, rightly says-"We don't have any opposition worth the name-the Congress has given the BJP a chance to go prowling for simple minded suckers. For its own sake, BJP has to ensure its mad caps are kept behind closed doors." WikiLeaks has exposed the Achilles heels of both the Congress and BJP in an equal manner, leaving both parties red-faced.
The Union agriculture minister says he is not responsible for the food inflation that is exceeding an all-time high of 15%-the onions, garlic and tomatoes are not on his platter! We also have a scam-tainted Chief Ombudsman, the Chief Vigilance Commissioner who claims that he is only charged with criminal conspiracy and not criminal acts! The brother and son-in-law of an ex-Chief Justice become millionaires during his term of office. He continues to enjoy his post-retirement office as Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission with all attendant perks.
Doctors and hospitals blatantly overcharge when they come to know that patients are reimbursed, forcing health insurers to unilaterally pull out of cashless health-cover, crying over losses that are bleeding them. World bodies are refusing to extend lines of credit. Public transport is creaking at its seams. Power shortages-unheard of earlier-have reached Mumbai's eastern suburbs. The local water, petrol and land mafia are operating freely. Food inflation has shot through the roof. Mumbai is adding to its billionaires and high-rise luxury apartments with in-house gyms, swimming pools and will soon add rooftop helipads. Neighboring Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Karnataka have overtaken Maharashtra, shaking overseas and domestic investors' confidence in the state administration.
While addressing state chief secretaries on 4 February 2011, Dr Manmohan Singh said - "Corruption strikes at the roots of good governance, it is an impediment to faster growth, it dilutes, if not negates efforts at social inclusion, dents our international image and demeans us before our own people. Inflation poses a serious threat to the growth momentum, it is mostly driven by supply-side shortages."
Speaking later at the 17th Commonwealth Law Conference, the PM demanded, "power of judicial review must never be used to erode the legitimate growth assigned to other branches."
At the same venue, the Chief Justice slammed the government on the issue of food security and lack of inclusive financial growth. At another conference in Mumbai Supreme Court Justice Ganguly asked how former Maharashtra CM Vilasrao Deshmukh has been allowed to continue as a minister in the Union Cabinet after he was rapped by the Supreme Court in December, terming his interference with the police from taking action against a Congress MLA-moneylender, his behavior being "anachronistic and incongruous" and the High Court fine of Rs25,000, which was subsequently enhanced to Rs10 lakh.
The Supreme Court had remarked that the CM's behaviour was condemnable as he had acted beyond all legal norms for political considerations despite the Vidarbha region having the dubious distinction of witnessing the largest number of farmer suicides. Considering the large volumes of scams/frauds, a Bengaluru-based Chartered Accountant has proposed a punitive tax to serve both as a deterrent and punishment by christening it a 'Sin Tax' on tobacco and alcohol, and another tax yet to be named, of a flat 40%-50% of the amount evaded on those who intentionally violate tax and forex laws instead of resorting to amnesty schemes.
A long time ago, what Lord Macaulay said of British politicians of his times aptly applies to our today's netas, that they are a blend of "Whatsoever things are false, whatsoever things are dishonest, whatsoever things are impure, whatsoever things are hateful, whatsoever things are of evil report, if there be any vice and if there be any infamy."
(This author is a chartered accountant and activist.)