A Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra on Wednesday slammed the lawyer of Gautam Khaitan in the AgustaWestland case on the applicability of the black money law with retrospective effect.
“You are trying to avoid the bench. This conduct is deprecating,” Justice Mishra said during the hearing.
“Nonsense”, said Justice Mishra, objecting to a senior lawyer not agreeing with a date of hearing in Khaitan’s case. Khaitan is an accused in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam and he was booked under the Black Money Act.
“Justice can’t be purchased like this. Looks like you want to avoid this bench. We are averse to such a practice. It won’t work in this court”, Justice Mishra said.
As the lawyer persisted on hearing the matter on a different date, Justice Mishra replied, “You people are lawyers and you are supposed to protect the law. The matter is scheduled for final hearing next week on Wednesday.”
The Supreme Court had in May stayed the Delhi High Court order saying that the 2016 black money law cannot be applied with retrospective effect.
The high court had on May 16 restrained the Centre and the Income Tax (I-T) department from taking any action against Khaitan.
The Supreme Court vacation bench, headed by Justice Mishra and also including Justice M.R. Shah, issued a notice to Khaitan, asking him to reply within six weeks.
In May, the Centre had moved the Supreme Court challenging a Delhi High Court order, which ruled the black money law cannot have a retrospective effect, that is, it can’t be applied prior to April 1 2016, as fixed by Parliament.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had submitted indicating at the implications of the high court order on several cases pending before courts mentioned the matter before the vacation bench comprising Justices Indira Banerjee and Sanjiv Khanna.
On May 16, the Delhi High Court passed the order preventing the government and the Income Tax department from initiating any punitive measure against Khaitan under the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015.
Challenging his arrest, Khaitan had submitted before the court that the Act on black money was notified by the Centre before the Act itself became operational.
The Enforcement Directorate on January 26 arrested Khaitan, an accused in the VVIP chopper deal scam, for allegedly depositing money in offshore accounts.
The high court had said: “… at this stage we are prima facie of the considered view that, the official respondents could not have exercised powers granted to it under the provisions of Sections 85 and 86 of the said Act, prior to the enactment itself coming into force, in terms of the provisions of sub-Section (3) of Section 1 of the said Act.”
The high court had queried the Centre on the applicability of the retrospective effect from July 2015 to the enactment of the black money law in April 2016 to take into consideration undisclosed foreign income and assets. Khaitan had informed the court that under the Act unnecessary action has been initiated against him for assets which did not exist before the law came into force.