Government’s efforts to combat the scourge of black money have hitherto been half-hearted. Again the Supreme Court had to step in a PIL filed by Ram Jethmalani for a direction against the Union to file a list of persons having accounts in Liechtenstein Bank where investigations have been concluded, and to bring back to India monies stashed in foreign banks. After prolonged resistance, the Centre revealed names of 18 persons who allegedly stashed black money with LST bank in Liechtenstein and against whom prosecutions have been launched. The names, listed in Centre’s affidavit, include Mohan Manoj Dhupelia, Ambrish Manoj Dhupelia, Bhavya Manoj Dhupelia, Manoj Dhupelia and Rupal Dhupelia from Ambrunova Trust and Marline Management. The government also placed in a sealed envelope the names of other individuals in eight other cases in which it is said to have found no evidence of tax evasion and pleaded that their names may not be made public. The plea was strongly opposed by senior counsel A B Divan appearing for Jethmalani. The Bench comprising Justice H L Dattu and Justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and Madan Lokur has reserved orders, on this plea of the Centre.
The Supreme Court judgment is indeed a step in the right direction. It is not cynical, however, to presume that because of the delay in receiving the names and acting on them promptly, large sums of monies might have been withdrawn or otherwise adjusted and the names of other culprits will not see the light of day. In any event, the revealed names should be extensively and repeatedly published in print and electronic media. Prosecutions will linger on at a leisurely pace. Nonetheless, let these persons be shamed at the bar of public opinion assuming that any shame is left.
Electoral War of Words: 2014 Election campaign has been unique in the choice of abusive expletives hurled by rival political parties and leaders against their opponents. They range from Butcher of Gujarat, compulsive liar and mentally disturbed to snakes and scurrying mice. Some have a poetic ring like Ramdev being called Kamdev. But despite this ceaseless war of words, political parties close their ranks. The credit must go to Pakistani interior minister Chaudhary Nasir Ali Khan for his remarks that those who are giving statements that Pakistan is sheltering Dawood Ibrahim and thinking of launching an operation on Pakistan soil “should realise that neither is Pakistan a weak country to be afraid of such threats, nor can Pakistan be impressed with such irresponsible statements”. He also opined that if Narendra Modi is elected as Prime Minister he would destabilise peace in the region. In a refreshing show of solidarity Congress Union minister Manish Tewari termed Khan’s statement unfortunate and said the Pakistani government must introspect and should hand over Dawood Ibrahim to India if he is taking shelter in that country. Congress general secretary Shakeel Ahmed retorted that “our people are capable enough to decide whom to elect and whom not to elect and it is the people’s decision. We don’t need any advice from any Pakistani minister”. Expectedly fiery BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi slammed Khan’s comments as “an over-reaction in a matter that is not his subject”, and for good measure added that “individual leaders in sovereign nations are elected by the people, and no one from any other nation has the right to interfere in our national affairs”. The war of words has resumed in full force and vehemence and charming Priyanka Gandhi is also contributing to it. Perhaps offensive remarks against our country from a Chinese minister may lead to a temporary cessation of this nasty verbal warfare and probably there will again be exhibition of political solidarity. An ironic reflection indeed. Are we incapable of conducting a dignified political discourse which can certainly be vigorous and forceful without descending to the low level of slander and abuse?
Sorabjee is a former AttorneyGeneral of India