The Supreme Court of India issued a very unique order today when it directed a Special Investigating Team be set up to monitor the investigation into the issue of black money.
Former judges say this order is a commendable one and the intention was obvious that it wanted to set up a body which is independent of any political interference.
Justice M F Saldanha, former judge of the Karnataka and Bombay High Court says that the Supreme Court does appoint panels to over see matters and the order that was passed was very much within the right and powers of the Supreme Court. However setting up an SIT is unusual in nature since the Supreme Court has not done something of this sort before.
However what we need to look at is that the Supreme Court has made its intention very clear. They have clearly stated through this order that it does not trust anyone but itself to monitor the investigation. Usually the Supreme Court in earlier cases has said that it would monitor the investigation directly and the investigating agency would report to it directly. However now what it has done it has set up an exclusive body which would monitor the on going investigation. This body is independent of any agency and would report exclusively to the Supreme Court of India.
In the case of black money the allegation is that each and every political party has some stake in it and the court took into account that precious little was happening because of this.
What setting up an SIT would do is that it would dedicate itself to this case. The situation where black money is concerned is grave and hence such a body was needed. It is unusual and innovative on part of the Supreme Court since such a thing has not happened before.
The SIT appointed by the Supreme Court would act as a watch dog. Although it would only monitor the investigation it would still have powers to order the investigating agency the manner in which the probe needs to be conducted. More importantly it can pull up and also question the investigating agency about the probe and also ask it to look in the direction it would want it to. It can call for records and also direct the investigating agency to speed up the probe.
However this body would have to report to the Supreme Court from time to time and can only disclose details regarding the probe to the court. However it would all depend on how the Supreme Court handles this committee. The government as we have seen in the past is quite capable of frustrating the process and the Supreme Court as well as the SIT would have to deal with these aspects.
We need to see whether this innovation on part of the Supreme Court would work or not. But I must add that it is a very important and innovative order on part of the court.
This team would be slightly different when compared to the rest of the committees appointed by the Supreme Court. The other committees have been more of fact finding institutions which go into issues by itself and also rely on the rest of the agencies. However the SIT is an independent body which will be an authority over all the agencies which are looking into the issue of black money. Basically one would have to say that the jurisdiction of this SIT is very vast.