Copies of documents relied in show-cause notice issued to a person, are required to be provided to him

Delhi High Court: A Bench comprising of S. Muralidhar and Anil Kumar Chawla, JJ. has directed the respondent to provide to the petitioners copies of the documents referred in the Show-Cause Notice (SCN), which was issued by respondent to the petitioners.

SCNs were issued by the respondent, to the petitioners, proposing their prosecution. Petitioners made representations to the respondent, seeking copies of the documents and their statements referred to in the SCN, but the respondent refused their request by stating that the said documents have been shown to them. The respondent relied upon Article 26(2) of the OECD Model Convention, to contend that there is a restriction on the authorities in India sharing information that may have been obtained from foreign countries. Since the documents relied upon in the SCN include statement of bank accounts maintained with foreign banks, the above prohibition comes in the way of furnishing copies of the documents to the petitioners.

The Court observed Article 26(2) of the OECD Model Convention, and held that it is inconceivable that the person against whom the prosecution is proposed can be denied the material relied upon to prosecute him. The basic principle of natural justice requires that the person being proceeded against has to be furnished with copies of the material gathered against him. To say that the person being prosecuted can only be ‘shown’ such documents, but not provided copies thereof, was held as untenable by the Court, on a plain reading of Article 26(2). For an effective response, the petitioners would be required not merely to be ‘shown’ the material relied upon in the SCN but with copies thereof. Accordingly, the Court directed the respondent to provide to each of the petitioners copies of the documents referred to and relied upon in the SCN issued to the petitioners. [Poonam Jain v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine Del 8872, decided on 08.05.2017]

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