Pritam Pal Singh
The Delhi High Court Monday dismissed pleas by Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi against the Income Tax department’s decision to reopen their tax reassessments for the financial year 2011-2012 in connection with the National Herald newspaper case. “The petitions have failed. The issues and submissions raised here by the petitioners can be raised in the Income Tax proceedings,” a bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and A K Chawla said.
Stating that the tax department has the powers to reopen proceedings, the court also rejected a similar plea by Congress leader Oscar Fernandes. Last month, former Congress chief Sonia Gandhi had informed the High Court that the tax department had “mala fide” intention in sending the reassessment notice to Young Indian Pvt Ltd (YI) in which she and Rahul are stakeholders.
According to the tax department, Rahul Gandhi’s assessment for 2011-12 has to be reopened because he allegedly did not disclose at the time that he was a director in YI since 2010. The department claimed the shares that Rahul held in YI would lead him to have an income of Rs 154 crore and not about rS 68 lakh, as assessed earlier.
Gandhi’s lawyers had contended that the query put to their client during assessment was whether he held interest in any company or sister concern in which he was a director. They said he had replied in the negative as YI was a Section 25 company, and that no director would have any interest in a non-profit entity.
The court had on August 16 reserved its order on the pleas of the three leaders after the tax department contended that Rahul Gandhi’s tax assessment for 2011-12 had to be reopened as material facts were concealed. The income tax cases against the Congress leaders stem from a probe into a complaint filed by BJP MP Subramanian Swamy before a trial court. In the complaint, Swamy had alleged that the Congress leaders were involved in cheating and breach of trust in the acquisition of Associated Journals Ltd (AJL), which ran National Herald, by Young Indian Pvt Ltd, as assets worth crores of rupees had been transferred to YI. Swamy has alleged that YI had paid just Rs 50 lakh to obtain the right to recover Rs 90.25 crore that AJL had owed to the Congress party, given earlier as a loan to start the newspaper.