The Supreme Court served an ultimatum to the NDA government on Tuesday, giving it a day to reveal the names of all the Indians holding illegal bank accounts abroad in a sealed envelope.
"The new regime cannot come and tell us to modify our orders. We will not clarify or modify our 2011 order," the apex court said, adding, "The government's only role is to request for information on black money accounts from foreign banks."
In 2011, the Supreme Court, which has been monitoring the investigations into black money since 2009, had asked for complete disclosure of information on Indians holding black money abroad.
The apex court order came a day after the government named eight people being prosecuted for stashing untaxed money in illegal bank accounts in Switzerland and other countries. Sources say there are at least 800 Indians holding such accounts in foreign nations.
The Supreme Court diktat came a day after the Centre on Monday revealed eight names, which included consumer products giant Dabur India promoter Pradip Burman, Rajkot-based bullion trader Pankaj Chamanlal Lodhiya, Goa mining company Timblo Private Ltd and five of its directors - Radha Satish Timblo, Chetan S Timblo, Rohan S Timblo, Anna C Timblo and Mallika R Timblo.
The disclosure, the government said, was the first in what it claimed will be a series of such revelations in the coming days. The business leaders named in the affidavit later issued separate statements, denying the allegations.
The Centre's affidavit also said that every account held by an Indian in a foreign bank may not be illegal and the fundamental right to privacy under Article 21 should be upheld. Reminding the apex court of treaties that prevented it from revealing the information, the affidavit said that the government has to follow the procedures.
The Centre on Monday said it was open to revealing names only "after following the due process of law, in all cases where evasion of tax is established."
Senior Supreme Court lawyer and the main petitioner in the black money case, Ram Jethmalani, slammed the Centre over the revelations, saying the big fish involved in the case were not revealed. "It is a case of mountain in labour producing a mouse," he said.
The opposition Congress later claimed that the eight names were already disclosed by the UPA government earlier. "These names were already revealed by the UPA. The selective leakage of names smells of suspicious motives," Congress leader Sandeep Dikshit said.