Friday, July 12, 2024

Central assessments may be needed: SC on Rahul-Sonia pleas for faceless tax assessment

While referring to pleas filed by Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra against the transfer of their tax assessments to the central circle, the Supreme Court on Wednesday said that central assessments may be required if there were cross-transactions between individuals.

The apex court was hearing a batch of pleas by the Congress leaders, as well as the AAP and five charitable trusts linked with the Gandhis challenging the orders of IncomeTax (I-T) authorities to transfer their tax assessments to the central circle.

Senior Advocate Arvind Datar, who was appearing for the Gandhi family and trusts associated with them, said that because of a search in fugitive arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari’s case, the I-T authorities have tagged all these as supplementary cases because of Robert Vadra, Priyanka Gnadhi’s husband.

The Gandhis have said that they had nothing to do with Bhandari group’s cases and there has been no instance of search or seizure in their cases.

Bhandari is wanted in India on charges of corruption and money laundering. He has been allegedly linked to Robert Vadra over a London-based flat.

Robert Vadra has however denied any business dealings with Bhandari.

While replying to the pleas, Justice Sanjiv Khanna said: “Insofar as individuals are concerned…if there are cross-transactions, centralised assessment may be required.”

A bench comprising Justices Khanna and S.N.V. Bhatti heard the petitions.

The apex court will hear the Special Leave Petitions (SLPs) on October 9.

Justice Khanna also questioned Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi representing the AAP as to why there was a five-month delay in filing of writ petitions.

“In cases like this, delay can be fatal. Why was there a delay? We’ll deal with each case separately.” Justice Khanna said.

The court also observed that there must be some justification for removing faceless assessment, and the bench was only concerned with the legal issue and not the politics.

“We’ll keep it on Monday (October 9) since we have not read the files,” the bench said.

Earlier on May 26, the Delhi High Court had dismissed petitions by AAP, the Gandhi family, and the five trusts challenging the orders of the I-T Department to transfer their tax assessment from the faceless assessment to the central circle.

The High Court bench ruled that there was no fundamental legal right to be assessed under the faceless assessment scheme.

Gandhis primarily opposed treating their tax assessment along with Bhandari’s group.

The faceless assessment scheme removes physical contact between the taxpayer and the taxman by using artificial intelligence and machine learning to randomly select tax cases.

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