The Supreme Court on Thursday sought a response on the plea of market regulator SEBI that it has been dragged as a party in a PIL seeking a court-monitored CBI probe against Indians whose names have figured in Panama papers for allegedly holding bank accounts in foreign countries.
“We will require the petitioner to file an affidavit within four weeks showing as to how SEBI is connected with the present PIL,” a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy said.
The direction came when senior advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for SEBI, alleged that the market regulator has no role whatsoever in the the Panama paper leak case and it has been dragged in the list without any reason.
Meanwhile, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, sought dismissal of the PIL, filed by lawyer M L Sharma in his personal capacity, saying a Multi-Agency Group (MAG), comprising officials of CBDT, RBI, Financial Intelligence Unit and ED, has already been set up to ensure “speedy and coordinated” probe against Indians whose names have figured in Panama papers.
Moreover, as many as five reports have been submitted by MAG to the apex court-appointed Special Investigation Team on black money which is led by Justice (retd) M B Shah, he said, adding that MAG, in turn, has submitted those reports in sealed cover to a Supreme Court bench hearing black money case.
The Centre had on October 3 informed the court that a whopping Rs 8,186 crore, illegally kept in offshore banks by Indians, has been brought under the tax ambit despite constraints like non-sharing of information by Swiss authorities.
The Department of Economic Affairs of the Finance Ministry, in an affidavit, had said “an undisclosed income of Rs 8,186 crore (including protective assessment of Rs 1,485 crore) has been brought to tax, on account of deposits made in unreported foreign bank accounts”. The ASG on Thursday told the apex court that the Centre is “bent upon to find out the truth and take appropriate action” in the Panama paper leak case and hence the plea be dismissed.
Earlier, the Centre had also said that about Rs 1,282 crore has been levied in 159 cases pertaining to concealment of tax due to the goverment. “So far 164 prosecution complaints have been filed in 75 cases. The apex court-appointed SIT on blackmoney has been kept updated on the progress in these investigations,” it had said.
The Finance Ministry, however, had refused to respond to the allegations relating to an interim plea of advocate Sharma seeking a direction that the offshore portfolio investors, who invest in the Indian stock market through participatory-notes, should not be allowed to withdraw money till further orders.
It had said the issue related to SEBI which was the competent authority in this regard. The ministry had also opposed the contention raised in the PIL that re-appointment of U K Sinha as SEBI chief was illegal and hence should be quashed.