New Delhi

The exponential rise in the assets of MPs and MLAs during their tenure as lawmakers has come under judicial scanner with the Supreme Court on Wednesday directing the Centre to file a comprehensive report on what action or probe it has conducted against 289 legislators, including some senior leaders.

The MPs and leaders who figure on the list are from all parties and in some cases the assets have gone up by more than 500% in five years. Growth of assets has been a controversial issue with some MPs pointing out that appreciation in property values or business incomes can be a legitimate reason. But the court is keen on probing whether big jumps in assets were accounted for by legal income.

A bench of Justices J Chelameswar and S Abdul Nazeer said a probe is needed to find the source of income and whether property amassed was through legal means.

It pulled up Centre for its reluctance in sharing information and directed the government to file a report within a week.

The court said a representation was made to the chairman of the central board of direct taxes way back in June 2015 by an NGO seeking probe against such politicians but the Centre's response had been vague and it did not categorically state the outcome of any investigation or whether one was conducted at all. The representation was made on the basis of a report prepared by the Association of Democratic Reforms which collected asset details of politicians filed in the 2009 and 2014 general and state elections.

Senior advocate K Radhakrishnan, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that investigations into affairs of persons contesting elections, as a class, was not undertaken but specific cases where there was a reason to undertake verification were probed.

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He said outcome of such inquiries were shared by jurisdictional investigations directorates directly with the Election Commission.

The bench was not satisfied with the response and asked why the Centre is shying from a probe as the information is in public domain and authorities had to simply find out if it was possible to acquire property from known sources of income.

"Information in CBDT affidavit is vague. If this is the attitude the Government of India, what can be done? Why don't you place the information before the court on what you have done in those cases. Place the information before us," it said. "You better file a detailed affidavit. This affidavit which you have filed is nothing but typed papers. Do not make vague statements."

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