Like son Rahul, mother Sonia Gandhi is also caught by the Income Tax Department for hiding the Directorship of National Herald in their tax returns and evasion of taxable income of Rs.154 crores ($23 million). Accusing Income Tax department of coercive actions, Congress former President Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday told the Delhi High Court that they did not earn any income in the Young Indian- National Herald newspaper deal. Congress leader and lawyer P Chidambaram argued for Sonia Gandhi on her petition against the Income Tax order to reassess her annual tax return of 2011-2012 for not disclosing the Directorship in the Young Indian, a company floated to take over the newspaper publishing firm Associated Journals in late 2010. Apart from Sonia Gandhi, another Director and Congress leader Oscar Fernandez also filed a similar petition in the case before the bench hearing Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s petition on the same matter.
Like son, Sonia Gandhi also requested the court to ban the media from reporting on the Income Tax related issues in the National Herald case. The Court rejected the demand reiterated by Chidambaram on behalf of Sonia Gandhi. The Bench comprising Justices S Ravindra Bhat and A K Chawla posted the case to August 16 for further hearing. Arguing for more than an hour, Chidambaram said that even if there was taxable income, it would not go into the hands of Young Indian’s shareholders like the former Congress President, who owns 38 percent of the firm. Rahul Gandhi also has 38 percent shares in the firm. Oscar Fernandez and Motilal Vora have 12 percent shares each.
After hearing part arguments, when the court said it will issue a formal notice, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Tushar Mehta said there was no need for it as he was present in the court. The court, thereafter, listed the matter for further hearing on August 16, when the ASG will argue in defence of the action taken by the tax department.
The court said that once it reserved its judgment on the conclusion of the arguments, it will ask the tax department not to take any coercive steps till the verdict was pronounced. The bench also did not issue any order restraining the reporting of contents of the petitions filed on behalf of Sonia Gandhi, Congress President Rahul Gandhi, and party leader Oscar Fernandez.
The Gandhis and Fernandes have challenged the reopening of their tax assessment for the year 2011-12 in March this year. Senior advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for Rahul Gandhi, said that arguments during the hearing may be reported and urged the court to order that confidentiality be maintained regarding the contents of the petitions.
However, the bench declined to issue any such direction saying “we cannot go into all this” as it would be akin to going on a “wild-goose chase” as it was not known who reports contents of the matter and who is the source of the information.
As per the department, the shares Rahul and Sonia have in Young Indian would lead them to have an income of Rs 154 crores each. During his arguments, Chidambaram accused Income Tax of relying on the complaints filed by Subramanian Swamy, without taking his name throughout his arguments.
Chidambaram contended, “when debt is converted to equity, it does not result in any income and, even if it does, it would not result in income for the shareholder”. He said that even if it was accepted that income was generated, “it cannot be the income of YI and its shareholders in the same assessment year of 2011-12.”
He also argued that the tax department has “incorrectly invoked and applied” the formula for calculating the tax liability of Sonia Gandhi when her assessment for 2011-12 was reopened. Chidambaram said that when his client became a shareholder of Young Indian, she received nothing else, not even property, except 1,900 shares in the company.
He also termed as “incorrect” the tax department’s claim that Rs 90 crores loaned to AJL, leading to the debt, was bogus or paper loan, saying this is not correct as the amount was loaned through 137 cheques issued over a 9-10 year period.
Among other objections raised by him against the reopening of the assessment was that the communication sent to his client informing about the development was not digitally signed. The assessment was reopened in March 2018 on the orders of a senior officer who was monitoring the case from 2014, he said.
Meanwhile, in the trial court, Subramanian Swamy’s deposition and submission of documents will continue on August 25. In the trial court, the Congress leaders also demanded for restraining Swamy from Tweeting about the case. “I will give them a befitting reply,” said Swamy.
1. The conversion rate used in this article is 1 USD = 69.60 Rupees.
 National Herald case – Subramanian Swamy starts submitting evidence – Jul 21, 2018, PGurus.com
 Congress leaders file petition to restrain Subramanian Swamy from tweeting on National Herald – Jul 21, 2018, PGurus.com
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