Time has started ticking for Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi in the National Herald case. Delhi High Court on Monday dismissed the pleas of Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Oscar Fernandes challenging reopening of their tax assessments for 2011-12. The Income Tax issued orders to re-assess the tax returns, after finding that the Congress leaders did not reveal their directorship in the firm Young Indian, which took over the National Herald newspaper publishing firm Associated Journals Limited (AJL). Dismissing the petitions, the Bench comprising Justices S Ravindra Bhat and A K Chawla said that Income Tax has right to issue such orders and directed the petitioners to approach the appropriate forum, if aggrieved by the Income Tax’s order.
Sonia Gandhi was represented by the former Finance Minister and senior lawyer P Chidambaram and Rahul Gandhi was represented by noted tax lawyer Arvind Datar. Many Congress leaders feel that Chidambaram had gossiped against Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Singhvi and got them removed from the National Herald cases.
The High Court has already rejected the Congress leaders’ demand for restraining media houses from publishing the news related to Income Tax process in the National Herald cases. It is an irony that Chidambaram who nowadays speaks too much on freedom of expression argued for media banning in National Herald case.
The Income Tax Department, in December 2017, fined Young Indian for Rs.250 crores for suppressing the taxable income of Rs.414 crores in 2011-2012. PGurus has already detailed the Income Tax Order on this matter. After this Income Tax issued orders in March 2018 for re-assessing the income of the leaders as they had suppressed their directorship in Young Indian.
The Young Indian was floated on December 2010 and the scam got exposed only when Subramanian Swamy exposed the matter on November 1, 2012. This shows that Sonia and Rahul kept the directorship and floating of Young Indian as a secret and hence did not declare to Income Tax in 2011 & 2012 March Income Tax Returns.
The High Court had on August 16 reserved its order on the pleas of the three leaders after the Income Tax Department had contended that Rahul Gandhi’s tax assessment for 2011-12 was reopened as material facts were concealed. The bench had orally asked the tax department not to take any coercive step against Sonia, Rahul, and Fernandes till pronouncement of its verdict.
Appearing for Income Tax Department, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had argued that the Congress leaders had alleged mala fide on the part of the tax department but had not made any averments in this regard. Congress leaders accused Income Tax of “coercing” and acting on the complaints of the BJP leader Subramanian Swamy.
The Income Tax also found that Congress claim of giving Rs.90 crores to AJL was bogus and this was bogus claim was floated to acquire the assets of AJL, which is more than Rs.5000 crores land assets across the country. The tax department had said the shares Rahul has in Young Indian would lead him to have an income of Rs.154 crores and not about Rs.68 lakhs, as assessed earlier.
Meanwhile, Subramanian Swamy’s submission of evidence is going on in the trial court and the next hearing is posted for September 17. After this, he will be cross-examined by a battery of Congress lawyers.