Supreme Court defers hearing of I-T assessment case of Gandhis till 13 December

A bench headed by Justice Sanjiv Khanna observed that notice was yet to be issued on the petitions against HC order refusing to grant relief.


Published Dec 01, 2023 | 6:17 PMUpdatedDec 01, 2023 | 6:17 PM

Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi in Mulugu.

The Supreme Court Friday, 1 November, deferred the hearing of the petitions filed by Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as well as the AAP challenging the transfer of their income tax assessments to the Central Circle, which is mandated to check tax evasion, till 13 December.

A bench headed by Justice Sanjiv Khanna observed that notice was yet to be issued on their petitions against the Delhi High Court order refusing to grant them relief.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said issuance of formal notice in the matter, which includes similar pleas by Sanjay Gandhi Memorial Trust, Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust and Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, Jawahar Bhawan Trust and the Young Indian, was “not necessary”, and as indicated by the court earlier, the Income Tax department will not pass any final assessment order.

“We are here before the court. We know our responsibility. Notice is not necessary,” Mehta said.

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Asks I-T department for relevant files

The bench, also comprising Justice SVN Bhatti, asked the I-T Department to bring the relevant file on 13 December, the next date of the hearing.

The Gandhi family members, the trusts linked to them and AAP have challenged the May 26 common order of the Delhi High Court dismissing their petitions against the Income Tax department’s decision to transfer their I-T assessments to the Central Circle, which is authorised to check tax evasion, instead of an ordinary assessment.

The Gandhis had challenged the January 2021 order issued by the Principal Commissioner (Income Tax) to transfer their cases for the assessment year 2018-19 to the Central Circle over a matter related to arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari.

Bhandari, wanted in India on money laundering charges, has been accused of having business links with Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s husband Robert Vadra, who has denied any business connections with the fugitive arms dealer.

The Central Circle, which is authorised to check tax evasion, takes over the evidence gathered by the I-T department’s investigation wing during searches.

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Delhi HC order

On 26 May, the Delhi High Court said it is of the view that the assessments of the petitioners have been transferred to the Central Circle in accordance with law by way of the impugned orders passed under Section 127 of the (I-T) Act.

The court clarified it has not examined the “controversy between the parties on merits” and said the Central Circle’s jurisdiction is not confined only to search cases, and no assessee has any fundamental or vested legal right to be assessed by a faceless assessing officer.

The Gandhis had opposed the transfer of their cases to the Central Circle on several grounds including that they have nothing to do with the Sanjay Bhandari group’s cases.

The I-T department had opposed the petitions filed by the Gandhis and AAP in the high court and said the transfer orders were issued for “better coordination, effective investigation and meaningful assessment” which reflects administrative convenience and exigency.

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