The Income Tax Tribunal on Thursday upheld the case against the Gandhi family in connection with commercial immovable properties worth more than Rs 800 crore by incorporating Young Indian having a share capital of Rs 5 lakh and by taking hawala entry of Rs 1 crore from a shell company of Kolkata.
The controversy had started with the acquisition of shares of Associated Journals Ltd on February 26, 2011. The AJL was incorporated as a public limited company on November 20, 1937 under the Indian Companies Act, 1913, for the purpose of publication of newspapers in different languages, and started publishing newspapers such as “National Herald” in English, “Navjivan” in Hindi and “Qaumi Awaz” in Urdu.
The Income Tax proceedings and the assessment order was challenged twice by the Gandhis before the Delhi High Court by way of writ petition, however, these writ petitions were dismissed. The order of the Income Tax authorities levying tax of Rs 249.15 crore has already been confirmed by the CIT(A) in the first appeal on December 6, 2018.
The whole process of takeover of commercial property of the AJL was completed within three months from the date of incorporation of Young Indian without paying any taxes and stamp duty. The Income Tax Department had levied tax of Rs 249.15 crore on the benefit of Rs 414.40 crore accrued to Gandhi family through this “fraudulent transaction” by order dated December 27, 2017.
Young Indian has challenged the order of the CIT (A) before Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT), and its second appeal was disposed of by the ITAT, by order dated March 31, 2022, confirming the order of the assessing officer and first appellate authority holding hat benefit of Rs 395 crore accrued to Gandhi family, as against the benefit determined at Rs 414.40 crore by the the Income Tax Department, giving small relief of approximately Rs 17 crore to the Gandhi family.
The National Herald scam is also currently under investigation by the Directorate of Enforcement under the provisions of the PMLA as sequel to cognizance of complaint of Subramanium Swamy to a Delhi court.
The CBI/ED have also charged the then Congress government in Haryana with illegally allotting an immovable property to the AJL, and a charge sheet has been filed against Bhupinder Singh Hooda, the then Chief Minister, and other officials. The ED has already attached the immovable property located at Panchkula under the PMLA Act.
The Central and state governments had allotted several immovable properties located at prime locations to the AJL on a token payment for publication of a newspaper. However, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development later detected that the property, namely National Herald House, was used to earn commercial income instead of publishing newspapers and accordingly, its lease deed was cancelled. The order was challenged by the Gandhis before the Delhi High Court but their plea was dismissed.