“Income under each head should be probed. All these should be inquired. The public needs an answer. The people should get to know the state of affairs”
“It is not enough that a legislator discloses a legitimate source of income. It is important to inquire that how did the person get in that position to earn that income”. - Justice Chelameswar
The Supreme Court bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar had several pointed questions to ask to the Centre and CTBT on taking action against politicians who are amassing wealth including setting up of fast track courts to try them expeditiously.
The bench even went on to seek the status of the action following Vohra committee report after which a parliamentary committee had made scathing remarks regarding nexus between politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen and criminals.
“There was that Vohra committee report in which scathing comments were made. What happened after that ? Is it not high time we did something about it ? We have to do something.
Four days after the Supreme Court pulled up the Centre and directed furnishing of details of action initiated against lawmakers, some of whose assets have jumped by over “500 per cent” between elections, the Central Board of Direct Taxes filed an affidavit saying there has been a substantial hike in the assets of seven Lok Sabha MPs and 98 MLAs across the country and "discrepancies" have been found.
In an affidavit the CBDT said they have probed the allegations by NGO Lok Prahari which has sought disclosure of the sources of income by the candidates contesting elections when they file nomination for polls, regarding alleged increase in assets of 26 Lok Sabha and 11 Rajya Sabha MPs and 257 MLAs.
Preliminary assessment of another 42 MLAs is underway, the affidavit said.
Expressing prima-facie satisfaction at the report, the bench however asked CBDT why it was going strictly by the Income Tax Act but should also try to find out what are the factors which leads to a MLAs and MPs amassing such huge wealth within a short span of time. “Income under each head should be probed. All these should be inquired. The public needs an answer. The people should get to know the state of affairs”, said Justice Chelameswar.
The bench also questioned the Centre on the present state of affairs when it comes to prosecuting legislators with disproportionate assets.
“It is not enough that a legislator discloses a legitimate source of income. It is important to inquire that how did the person get in that position to earn that income”.
'Less than two percent spend on judiciary and infrastructure; other than Industrial Tribunals, there hasn't been any specialised tribunals created. Why doesn't the Parliament legislate and sets up special court,' observed Justice Chelameswar.
He said fast track courts were required for expeditiously trying corrupt politicians so that they do not enjoy the fruit of office and also use their influence to prolong the trial and benefit from that”
EARNEST EFFORTS MADE: AG
Attorney General Venugopal appearing for the Centre told Supreme Court that setting up special courts is a question of “priorities”. He further argued that CBDT is looking at all the cases very seriously and the current system is doing its best.
After submitting the affidavit, the AG said the court should appreciate it and also keep it in mind that all efforts are being made by the government in this regard.
NAMES IN SEALED COVER
"As per an arrangement between CBDT and Election Commission of India (ECI), verification of affidavits of the the candidates is undertaken as per provisions of Income Tax Act, 1961," it said.
"Given that revenue augmentation is the primary concern of the IT department and since increasingly the department is Graduating towards non-intrusive methods, the verification of election affidavits is carried out in respect of specific category of such cases as per agreed parameter between ECI and CBDT," the affidavit said.
“You better file a detailed affidavit. This affidavit which you have filed is nothing but typed papers. Do not make vague statements. If the CBDT has taken some action, please disclose what action has been taken.’, the bench had said earlier
The bench noted the government was saying it was not averse to reform and added necessary information should be there on record. “… what is the action taken. If you think some information should not be made public… give us that in a sealed cover and tell us why you do not want to make it public.