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Monday, 18 July 2011 00:00
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The government's decision to appeal the Supreme Court judgment appointing two former judges to supervise the Special Investigation Team (SIT) on black money, hasn’t come a day too soon. As this newspaper has argued before, it is true the government needed to be goaded into action on many important cases —the 2G investigation which never gathered momentum till the Court stepped in is a good example. In other cases, such as the safety of those working in sewers, the government’s inaction is what forced the Court to step in—on Thursday, the Court ordered safety equipment to be mandatorily given to sewer workers. There are scores of other such cases where the Court has stepped in, as it should, when it felt justice was not being served.


What makes the black money SIT judgment unique is that the Court will now get involved in the day-to-day running of affairs. The SIT will be in charge of all investigations and prosecutions in black money — among other things, this would, involve taking a look at double taxation avoidance agreements (DTAAs) that the government signs with other countries, something most agree is hardly the jurisdiction of the courts. Interestingly, while the Court seems to be of the view that such DTAAs are helping the flows of black money to overseas destinations, in the Azadi Bachao Andolan case in 2003, a two-judge bench of the Court upheld the Indo-Mauritius DTAA. In that case, the Court said its job was to decide what the law was, and to apply it, not to make it.

Whether the Court will be sympathetic to the appeal remains to be seen. Current indications are that it will not. While delivering the verdict on the rights of sewer workers, the Court came down heavily on those who thought the courts were being activist and said it was those people who were being elitist and status quoist. And giving an indication of the way it felt, the Court said, “If the sugar barons and the alcohol kings have the fundamental right to carry on their business and to fatten their purses by exploiting the consuming public, have the Chamars … no fundamental right to earn an honest living …?” The government’s new counsel, now that the Solicitor General’s resignation has been accepted, has a tough job ahead.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 30 November 2011 17:21 )

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