New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday pulled up the ED for keeping it in dark about filing of chargesheet against Pune-based stud farm owner Hasan Ali Khan in a case of alleged money laundering and questioned the functioning of a high-level committee(HLC) formed by the government to monitor probe in black money cases.
Taking strong exception, the apex court, which has been monitoring the probe in blackmoney cases, sought an explanation on why the Enforcement Directorate (ED) did not inform it about filing of chargesheet which was done just two days before it had heard the case.
“Why is it that we were not informed that investigation is complete against that man (Hasan Ali). In your status report you had said that investigation was still going on. But two days after we read it in newspapers that you have filed the chargesheet. We must express our reservation on it,” a bench comprising justices B Sudershan Reddy and S S Nijjar said.
In the last hearing on 4 May 2011, the ED had placed its status report on the investigation in the black money case involving Khan and others but it did not make a mention of the chargesheet to be filed on 6 May before a special court in Mumbai.
The bench also expressed surprised on why charge sheet was not placed before the HLC which was appointed by the government to counter the plea of setting up of SIT to monitor the probe and steps taken by various agencies to bring back money stashed in foreign banks.
“We thought that someone(retired SC judge) should monitor all such cases but you put in place mechanism to monitor such cases. We want to see where lies your mechanism and how it has been doing,” the bench said while questioning the Centre whether the committee went through the chargesheet.
“You (ED) filed the chargesheet without placing it before the committee you have constituted and we are surprised,” the bench said.
Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium, who had vehemently opposed the setting up of SIT, consulted with the Home Ministry officials and replied “No”.
“We are surprised to know. You yourself put in the mechanism. Why was the chargesheet not placed before the committee?” the bench asked.
Subramanium replied, “I have no idea”.
He agreed that the chargesheet should have been placed before the committee and said corrective measures will be ensured.
Opposing setting up of SIT headed by a retired Apex court judge in black money cases, the Centre had on 25 April appointed a 10-member committee.
This comprised revenue secretary, deputy director RBI, directors of CBI, Intelligence Bureau (IB), Enforcement Directorate, chairman of CBDT, director general of Revenue Intelligence, director general of DGNC (Directorate General of Narcotics Control), director of Foreign Intelligence Office (FIO) and joint secretary of Foreign Trade.
The court also directed the ED to provide the copy of the over 900-page chargesheet to the petitioners.
The court was hearing a petition filed by noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani and some former bureaucrats seeking the court’s direction to the government to bring black money stashed by Indian nationals in foreign banks, which is said to be to the tune of one trillion US dollars.
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 the government was not taking action to bring back the black money.
NGO , People’s Political Front and former top cop Julio F Riberio are also among the petitioners.
Earlier, the government had opposed the idea of setting up an SIT comprising members of various agencies to probe the case saying the ED has been conducting the investigation properly, which is reflected in the status report filed before the bench.
The court, however, had said that in view of the gravity of the case, more than one agency is required to conduct the investigation as the ED itself had expressed “helplessness” on numerous occasions while probing the case.
“We are very clear in our mind that more than one agency is required to conduct the investigation and it should be monitored by a person of eminence which could be a retired Chief Justice of High Court,” the court had said.