Ram Jethmalani is a senior politician and eminent lawyer.
Pranab Mukherjee during a special sitting to mark 60 years of Parliament, in the Lok Sabha, New Delhi last month. PTI
inance Minister Pranab Mukerjee's White Paper on black money surprisingly conceals from the public any information regarding the legal Damocles sword hanging over his government, in the form of the Supreme Court judgement announced in July 2011, in the Public Interest Litigation filed by me in 2009 in the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court judgement in its operative portion has ordered that a) the existing High Level Committee constituted by the government to oversee and coordinate investigations into cases of money laundering and stashing black money in tax havens be forthwith appointed as a Special Investigation Team; b) the SIT would be headed by two former eminent judges of the Supreme Court; c) the SIT would be responsible for ongoing and future investigations regarding unaccounted monies in the cases of Hasan Ali, Kashinath Tapuriah, and other known instances, and all other matters with respect to unaccounted monies being stashed in foreign banks that may arise in the course of the investigation; e) that the SIT would be responsible to the Court. The Supreme Court has also ordered that the government shall forthwith disclose to the petitioners all the documents and information secured from Germany regarding the Liechtenstein names, with some reasonable conditions, and that the SIT shall expeditiously investigate the same.
I would like to pose some questions to the Finance Minister regarding this. Did not the Supreme Court in its ruling in the Public Interest Litigation filed by me state that despite the fraudulent and frivolous arguments put forth by its lawyers, his UPA government in power had taken no serious steps to recover the money and punish the criminals? Did not the Supreme Court put the government investigation team under the supervision and control of two respectable and reputed ex Justices of the Supreme Court to investigate the gigantic dacoity on the legitimate assets of the impoverished Indian aam admi, to recover the money and retrieve the stolen wealth? Did not the Supreme Court order that the government should disclose to me as the petitioner, and to my co-petitioners the identity of the criminals involved, whose names are on the lists?
The UPA government, instead of implementing the Supreme Court Order, that would have been the defining indicator of its bona fides in retrieving the black money looted from the people of India, has instead demanded a recall of the order. This establishes its complete mala fide, connivance and conspiracy, and confirms that it has no intention of taking any substantive steps to recover the black money stashed away abroad, or take any serious action to combat this grievous economic crime impoverishing our nation — the 21st century version of UPA imperialism. The nation should also be informed that no investigation has taken place regarding the issues before it since the Supreme Court judgement. Why does the Finance Minister conceal these extremely pertinent facts in his Paper?
The White Paper coyly discusses the dimensions of black money stashed away abroad by quoting statistics that are more than a decade old, saying that these are being researched upon by three agencies whose report is expected in September 2012. So why present this White Paper now, if the government claims it has no knowledge of the quantum of black money lying abroad? Interestingly, the Paper officially discloses a figure regarding Indian accounts held with Swiss banks, at around only US $213 billion (as against $88 billion projected by the IMF, and $213.2 billion by GFI), down 60% between 2006 and 2010. A reasonable conclusion that can be drawn is that black money holders, in anticipation of international and national public pressure (not governmental) are transferring their money around to other safe havens, the safest, it is said, being India. The last two years have seen several enabling statutes and mechanisms to stealthily repatriate the ill-gotten wealth back to India.
I am also given to understand that there is evidence of a huge disparity between export figures, particularly of metals quoted by government, and actual exports through data available from independent sources. The same applies to figures regarding FIIs. The game is clear. Use every tool and instrument of government to repatriate the money back to India, without disclosure, culpability or punishment. There must be ways and ways that we can never fathom or document, but the black money holders control legislation, either through being important politicians, or big businesses, who can buy safe passage, necessary loopholes and escape routes through statute or legislation.
I ask the Finance Minister — has he not by his criminal negligence and active cooperation with the criminals allowed the stolen money to be removed from the accounts in which it was held and only a small fraction remains, which too he is determined to place beyond the reach of the people of India who are its legitimate owners?
As I always suspected, the White Paper on black money provides no fresh insights, information, analyses on this mammoth national plunder. In fact, it meanders and misdirects, pointing fingers at real estate owners and jewellers as major culprits, without explaining that they are merely the jugglers and not the generators of black money. Even social sector schemes, such as the NREGA are not spared as possible suspects. But most tragically, it provides not even a faint shadow of political will to recover the black money and use it for national development. Truly, it is not even a bikini, as my friend Jaswant Singh has called it. It is more like a shroud burying the entire issue. A Black Paper on Black Money.
Mr Finance Minister, you may have no fear of the law or the courts, but remember that there is a greater law, of nature or of the Gods. Several seemingly invincible powerful families, one of which you serve, have met their retribution tragically. Remember, there is no escape from the divine wrath of God or nature that awaits the wicked and corrupt.