Justice (Retired) MB Shah, who heads the Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on black money, plans to convene its first meeting immediately after the finance ministry comes out with a notification on the matter. The first meeting is likely to take place within 10 days as the ministry plans to come out with the notification by next week. All the ongoing cases will be handed over to the SIT, which will chalk out an action plan to curb the menace of black money in the future, according to finance ministry sources.
In Shah's own words, the task that he has been entrusted is an 'enormous one'. He told dna: "The government has indeed entrusted an enormous job upon me. We will try our best to do justice to it. I will convene the first meeting immediately after the government notifies the formation of the team."
A senior finance ministry source confirmed to dna that a notification will come out by next week. Sharing the terms of reference of the SIT, the official said on condition of anonymity, "All the cases where investigation is ongoing will be taken over by the SIT. The team is also likely to probe individuals whose names have been disclosed by Germany for having accounts in Leichtenstein banks."
That gives the task mammoth proportions as at least 9,900 overseas accounts of Indians are being probed, and another 30,700 domestic transactions are under the scanner.
Experts feel that the move to institute an SIT will serve as a deterrent to those trying to use tax havens, and maintain that the SIT should prefer getting erring assessees to pay tax first and later focus on bringing back black money. Rakesh Nangia, managing partner of Delhi-based tax consultancy firm Nangia and Co, told dna: "The step shows that the government means business. Wherever it has definitive information on those who have stashed money abroad illegally, the team should focus on recovering tax from them."
The issue of black money has been on the government's radar for a long time now. The White Paper on Black Money, presented by former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, claimed that there is no figure pertaining to black money stashed abroad although market estimates peg the figure at about Rs 70 lakh crore.