New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Union and the Maharashtra governments to provide adequate protection to Pune stud farm owner Hasan Ali Khan, facing probe for allegedly stashing away black money abroad and evading taxes, and his family.
The apex court also asked the investigators to video- record the statements of the accused and witnesses as part of the probe into the case.
A bench of justices B Sudershan Reddy and S S Nijjar directed the government to place before it by 8 April, in a sealed cover, the CD and transcripts of 53-year-old Khan’s statements recorded by suspended Maharashtra police officer Ashok Deshbhratar.
The court gave the order after the government responded to its posers on various issues, including security for Khan.
During the hearing, Solicitor General Gopal Subramanian told the court that the government was not at this juncture in favour of constitution of a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the case of black money being stashed away in foreign banks and money laundering by Khan.
Contending that the agencies, currently investigating the case, should continue with their probe, Subramanian said the court may form an SIT to probe the case later if the agencies did not show result.
“At this juncture, an SIT should not be appointed. Wait for some more time as the agencies are involved in examining the matter. Any deflection at this point of time will prove far more expensive,” the Solicitor General said.
He said the government has no objection in principle in video-recording the statements of the accused and witnesses during the investigation process.
Besides the Enforcement Directorate probe in the black money case, Khan is also facing a nearly Rs 70,000 crore tax demand notice from the Income-Tax Department.
During the proceedings, the bench said it favoured the constitution of an SIT as for the last three years, the agencies probing the matter have not gone into the fundamental question of the sources of money and it has remained unanswered.
“The manner in which it (investigation) has proceeded since 2008 makes it clear that there has not been substantial progress in the investigation. The speed at which the investigation ought to have been done, has not been done,” it observed.
“Since 2008, you have known that certain individuals for years have some kind of money abroad. Instead of looking into that, you talked about double taxation treaty and this treaty and that treaty. Simple questions you could have asked those individuals were that from where you have got that money which you have so far not answered,” it said.
The bench said it has gone through various status reports filed by the ED but nowhere did it find any mention of the sources of money.
Referring to the status report filed yesterday by the government on the ED’s probe, one of the judges said, “I went through it all night...reading the status report and the interrogation report filed by you and I found that there was no considerable effort to find out the sources of money. We have found only three-four questions but we have not found anything about the sources of money.
“It is not that they were foreigners. All of them were here but in three years we find that you have not done anything. It is more than three years. You have been investigating it since 2008. The fundamental question is about the sources of money,” the bench said.
During the hearing, senior advocates Anil Divan and Rajeev Dhawan, appearing for petitioners—former Union law minister Ram Jethmalani and former super cop Julius Ribeiro respectively—supported the idea of setting up an SIT to investigate the matter.
They said the investigation should be handed over to an SIT as the government itself has, through the Solicitor General, confessed that ED officers involved in investigation from top to bottom, were facing threats and needed protection through a court direction.
They submitted that there were questions as to whether the officers carrying out the probe were the right people for the job.