2 May : Government on Saturday filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court on the action taken by it on the issue of black money stashed in foreign banks.The affidavit was filed in response to a PIL filed by former Law Minister and eminent jurist Ram Jethmalani and five others who have been seeking a direction for the government to take action to bring back money to the tune of Rs 70 lakh crore stashed in foreign banks.
When the petition was mentioned on 22nd April before a Bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan, Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium had questioned the timing of raising the issue when the elections were underway.
Though the apex court had not issued notice, it had posted the matter for hearing on 4th May after the ASG had promised to file the affidavit within 48 hours.
He had said that action was already taken on the issue when it came to light in February 2008 and "the situation is totally under control".
Besides Jethmalani, five others including former Punjab DGP K P S Gill and former Secretary General of Lok Sabha Subhash Kashyap, who are petitioners, have alleged that government was not taking action on the issue.However, the ASG had refuted the allegation saying that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in his opening speech at the recent G-20 submit in London, had said that "there should be an absolute transparency and banking secrecy should be over".
The ASG had said that the Ministry of Finance had written to the German authorities in February and June 2008 when the issue appeared in the media seeking information about Indian account holders in LGP Bank there.
The PIL assumes importance as BJP’s prime ministerial candidate L K Advani besides Left parties and others have been pressing the government to approach the foreign banks for bringing back the black money.
During the last hearing, the petitioners had said all political parties are responsible for the present state of affairs and though the issue came to light in February 2008, government has not taken a step so far to the extent that not a single account has been frozen.
They had said the situation was alarming as the Swiss Bank authorities have said that Indians tops the list of depositors with around Rs 1.5 trillion deposited with it.
The petition sought a direction to the Centre to take up with the foreign banks, particularly the UBS Bank, Switzerland, the issue of freezing of accounts of Indian businessmen, politicians and other influential persons illegally holding their assets in such financial institutions.
The six petitioners, whom their counsel Anil Divan described as "super senior" citizens, have submitted that if the Rs 70 lakh crore, purportedly stashed in foreign banks, are retrieved it would substantially remove poverty in the country and promote its development.