New Delhi : Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi had “escaped” incomes — over what was declared and assessed — in 2011-12 of Rs 155.41 crore and Rs 154.96 crore respectively, according to an income tax order passed after reassessing their incomes relating to Associated Journals Ltd.
Rahul Gandhi had filed a return of income declaring Rs. 68.12 lakh for the assessment year. Also as per the reassessment order, income of Congress leader Oscar Fernandes has been found to be Rs 48.93 crore, according to sources in I-T department.
In the Supreme Court, which is hearing appeal of Congress leaders against re-opening of their tax assessment, former finance minister P Chidambaram, appearing for Sonia Gandhi, said that a tax liability of Rs 44 crore against her had been erroneously imposed after reassessing her income. He said that assessing officers of the department had without application of mind came to the conclusion that Rs 141 crore of her income relating to AJL “escaped” as she did not declare it in filing her return. Rahul Gandhi is also facing liability of similar amount.
As per the I-T reassessment order, more than Rs 300 crore of Gandhis’ income “escaped” and their tax liability is around Rs 100 crore.
The assessment order was passed on December 31 against Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Fernandes after reassessing their income for the year 2011-12 and order copies given to them. These were kept in abeyance as per Supreme Court directions as the court examines validity of I-T department action.
Challenging re-opening of the tax assessment before a bench headed by Justice A K Sikri, Chidambaram said I-T officials decision defied “common sense” as the department concluded she had “escaped income” of Rs 141 crore for getting 1,900 shares in a Non-profitable Organisation ‘Young Indian’.
The Gandhis have argued they are under no legal obligation to disclose details of acquiring shares in YI since such shareholding is not “interest” in a company. They had claimed shareholding in YI, being a non-profit and charitable company, cannot result in any interest that needs disclosure as neither a director nor shareholder has any right to receive dividends in, or interest in the property of such a company.
Chidambaram contended that the only asset of the company was the debt of Rs 90 crore but the I-T department erroneously fixed this as Rs 407 crore. He also challenged the I-T department’s decision on the ground that no “valid” notice was served to them within the limitation period for reassessing the income and the department had retrospectively withdrew the tax exemption given to YI.
Chidambaram also contended that CBDT had issued circular on December 31 saying that the provisions of Section 56(2)(viii)(a) of the Income Tax Act, 1961, shall not be applicable in cases of receipt of shares by a specified company as a result of fresh issuance of shares by the specified company but the circular was withdrawn by the board on January 4. He said that board is still examining the issue and raised question on how the I-T officials could pass an order when the issue is not well settled.
His contention was strongly objected by solicitor general Tushar Mehta who told the bench the circular had no bearing in the case and said assessing officer was bound to pass order even if the matter is under examination on the board.
The court, thereafter, asked Gandhis to place before the court the circular and file an affidavit within a week. The court asked I-T to file counter affidavit within a week thereafter and posted the case for hearing to January 29.
Dismissing their petitions, the Delhi HC had said the Gandhis and Oscar Fernandes had “the primary obligation to disclose the acquisition of shares” in Young Indian (YI).
Source : TOI