New Delhi, March 8 (IANS) The Supreme Court Tuesday asked the central government why top tax evader Hasan Ali could not be booked under stringent criminal laws rather than charge him merely with violation of the Income Tax Act and Foreign Exchange Management Act.
Asking the government to probe Ali’s suspected links with arms dealers, the apex court bench asked: “Why he cannot be booked under the Prevention of Corruption Act or some other state laws?”
Judges B. Sudarshan Reddy and S.S. Nijjar made the remarks after going through the status report on the investigation by the Enforcement Directorate into the activities of Ali and others.
The court is hearing a petition by senior lawyer Ram Jethmalani seeking directions to the central government to take steps to bring back black money stashed away in banks abroad.
The court asked the government to find out if Ali had any connections with arms dealers and if his activities had any bearing on national security.
It also asked the government if the investigation into Ali’s forged passport cases could be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
“So far as this (passport) aspect is concerned, chargesheet is yet to be filed and one does not know for how many years the investigation is going on,” the court said, and asked Solictor General Gopal Subramanium why the probe into the passport case could not be entrusted to the CBI.
Even as the judges voiced concern over the manner in which investigations had been done, senior counsel Anil Divan, appearing for Jethmalani, urged the court to ensure that no harm came to Ali.
“Hasan Ali Khan’s life is in great danger. The most important thing is that nothing happens to him. Some day he may say the truth,” Divan said.
At this the court said: “We have already expressed our concern. The director of enforcement is personally involved and we would like to have a report (status report) directly from him.”
At the outset, the solicitor general told the judges that the “concerns of the court (on sloppy investigations) were completely justified”.
Immediately, Divan sought the immediate change of the investigating team. He said that in last four years (2007-11) the team had done nothing.
Referring to the cross-examination of Ali by investigating officer A.K. Singh, Divan claimed it betrayed the directionless probe.
He said that all four officers who had earlier carried out the investigation and were withdrawn from the probe should be brought back.
Denying that the officials were withdrawn, the solicitor general told the court that these four officers were on deputation and had left the Enforcement Directorate after completing their deputation.
If required, they will be brought back, he said.
Subramanium told the court that he had asked one of the officers, Ashok Deshbhratar, now deputy commissioner of Mumbai Police, if he felt victimised.
If the answer was in affirmative, he promised to set things right.
Divan said that Deshbhratar, who had investigated the forged passport case of Hasan Ali, had said that “he had paid very heavily”.
The solicitor general said a status report would also be filed by the income tax department. “Since the last hearing of the matter, income tax authorities have come across some material on the case,” he said.
The matter will now come up for hearing March 18.