Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The Media Bubble of Black Money

Since last Monday Indian media was in a frenzy over the 3 names disclosed by the Modi led NDA Govt. to the Supreme Court and along with the UPA allies (and Arvind Kejriwal) were questioning the Central Govt. as to why it failed to disclose more names specially of the “Big Fishes’ and how it’s stand on “Black Money” is different from the previous UPA Govt. They even went to the extent of saying that the NDA Govt. was doing a U turn from its election promises on this issue and also trying a cover up for “some people”. When the Supreme Court asked the NDA Govt. yesterday to submit to it in a “sealed envelope” all the names of the “Foreign Bank Account Holders” collected so far by Govt. of India, the media got another stick to beat the Govt. saying that this is a “major blow” to the Modi Govt. But when the same Supreme Court chose not to make public the list of 627 names submitted to it in a sealed envelope by the Govt. today and left it to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to carry out necessary investigation and evolve a procedure to ensure proper probe into the matter, the bubble bursted on the face of the print & electronic media, arm chair intellectual critics and the corrupt UPA allies.
 
Now the questions that arise are the followings –
a)      Why did Supreme Court pass the order of yesterday?
b)      Is this order in contradiction to what the Modi Govt. has been all along saying both in court and in public forum (that the names will remain undisclosed until investigation agency’s probe and find any illegal act)?
c)       Is this a blow to Modi Govt.?
 
The Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told very clearly that Govt had already given list of all names obtained so far from foreign countries to the Special Investigation Team (SIT led by retired Justice MB Shah) as early as on 27th July as soon as the SIT was formed by the new NDA Govt.  It is to be noted that, the SIT was asked to be appointed by the Supreme Court itself in the year 2011.  Jaitley also  said that once SIT is through with the investigation and find any illegality in any of the accounts, the names shall be submitted to the Supreme Court. This has been explicitly stated in an affidavit recently filed by the NDA Govt before the Supreme Court. As SIT is being supervised by the Supreme Court itself, hence sharing the names with SIT is as good as sharing it with Supreme Court. Where does the question of hiding names arise? So, why did Supreme Court ask Govt. to provide it the names which the SIT already has? That is a million dollar question that has no logical answers. And now today when Supreme Court has said that it is not going to open the envelope and entrusted the same SIT with the investigation and submission of  report to the Supreme Court, is it not a bizarre order by the Supreme Court, which has no real purpose?
 
It was evident from the time the order was passed by the Supreme Court to submit the names of foreign account holders currently with Govt. of India and SIT in a “sealed envelope”, that it was not for public consumption. But the media and specially Congress led UPA allies (and also Kejriwal) created an impression that Court wanted all the names to be disclosed in public and the NDA Govt. was running away from it. Now that the Supreme Court has explicitly said that it is the SIT, who only can open the envelope and continue the investigation, does the same media and the UPA political leaders, rejected by people during the last Lok Sabha elections and Assembly election after election thereafter, owe an explanation to the people of this country? And there’s a legal reason, why NDA Govt. was not revealing the names in public but given to the Supreme Court supervised SIT formed by an order of the court. In Supreme Court’s own judgment of 2011, it clearly stated that disclosure of names without preliminary investigation indicating a prima facie violation is a serious violation of an individual’s right to privacy guaranteed under the Constitution. Moreover, the Supreme Court realizes that disclosing names received from foreign countries without establishing any illegal act will significantly impede on-going efforts to get more information from such tax havens and is also a serious violation of international treaties.
 
Today Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to be having the last laugh. Had the NDA Govt. kept on saying that they can’t reveal the names due to domestic and international legal reasons, it would have been under constant fire for days and months to come from the Congress led UPA and their paid media. Now the ball is in the Supreme Court's court and the argument rests there – now since the Supreme Court has kept the names secret and not made them public - NDA Govt.'s stand is vindicated. It has done its job by handing over the explosive envelope to the Supreme Court and the SIT under supervision of the Court has the responsibility to do effective & quick investigation and find legally valid proof to prosecute the offenders. If Supreme Court goes ahead and make the names public at any stage for any reason, without investigation and valid proof of illegality, the Govt. will be able to claim that it was Supreme Court, who derailed Black Money investigation. Actually Supreme Court has taken the monkey off NDA Govt.'s back. Now if the Supreme Court fails in its mission due to its immature and childish over enthusiasm like how it was displayed in plenty so far in this case, eggs will be on its face and not Modi Govt.’s.
 
Actually, the Supreme Court seems to be jittery over the Judicial Accountability Bill passed by both houses of Parliament - and wants to score points on Govt. – and this bizarre order is an outcome of that fight. But probably the Supreme Court has bitten off more than it can chew in this black money case?  It should not forget that in our country constitution is supreme and not the courts, the executive or the legislature. Each of these institutions has its own domain, duty and accountability. If the elected Govt. can’t be trusted to do their public duty, why should we believe judges appointed by a collegium system whose functioning was shrouded in secrecy for the last two decades? Therefore, it should not try to be in a popularity and publicity competition on an issue, on which the Govt. of the day has shown its commitment and resolve from the very first cabinet meeting it conducted.
 
The “News Traders” and “Presstitutes” of the media houses along with their politician and intellectual friends from the UPA club (including AAP) created an illusion that Modi led NDA Govt. is the culprit for India not able to recover the black money so far and it was a crime by BJP that they raised the issue of black money first and for so long.  They have also never highlighted that Supreme Court ordered the then UPA Govt. in 2011 to constitute a SIT to probe this issue but UPA  Govt. never obeyed the Court order till 2014, when they went out of power. They created all hurdles and delays in investigating the same. In contrast, Modi led NDA Govt. constituted the SIT on its first ever cabinet meeting with an ex Judge as head and including representatives from all the economic and criminal investigation agencies of the country under supervision of the Supreme Court. They submitted the list of names of account holders to the SIT on 27th July. The SIT started its probe and the first list of 3 offenders were submitted to the court on 27th Oct – that is within a space of 3 months from the date of handing over the names, investigation started in right earnest and complete proof against 3 persons were collected so that those names can be made public as per international legal requirements. The Govt. also told the court that very soon more names will be made public as investigations are almost complete against more names. This is a sharp departure from the pussy footing by the UPA Govt. for 10 long years, when they failed to even constitute the SIT to start the investigation, let alone find proofs to make names public and start prosecution.
 
The media, the UPA allies, Arvind Kejriwal and his “Char Aadmi Party”   has been discredited thoroughly today, who went to town claiming that NDA Govt. had something to hide and is not sincere in investigating the Black Money issue. Within a period of 5 months they are expecting miracles from NDA Govt. but why they never showed such haste when UPA was ruling?