The Delhi High Court today said there was nothing wrong with the Income Tax department’s order under the new benami law to provisionally attach some assets allegedly linked to Delhi Health Minister Satyender Jain.
“Prima facie, I am of the view that there is nothing wrong with the order. I am not inclined to interfere with the attachment,” Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva said while hearing Jain’s plea challenging the attachment order of May 24.
The court also refused to stay the proceedings before the adjudicating aurthority as was sought by the minister.
The assets were initially provisionally attached on February 27 and the order was extended on May 24 by the IT department till the time the adjudicating authority took a final decision.
In his plea, Jain had said the attachment was done as per the amended provisions of the Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act of 1988 and claimed that the amendment of 2016 would not be applicable in the instant case.
He had contended that the alleged benami transactions, from the proceeds of which the attached assets were allegedly purchased, took place between 2011 to March 31, 2016 and therefore, the amendment which came into effect in November 2016 would not apply.
However, during the hearing, the court said it was of the prima facie view that Jain would be covered by the earlier unamended provision also.
It did not issue notice in the matter as Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain opposed passing of any such order. The court renotified the matter for hearing on July 6.
The ASG opposed issuance of notice saying presently the initiating officer has only passed a provisional attachment order andforwarded it to the adjudicating authority, which is yet to even issue a show cause notice.
He said the adjudicating authority will give Jain an opportunity to be heard and cross examine the witnesses before taking a final decision.
The counsel for Jain, on the other hand, claimed that witnesses were examined by the initiating officer prior to passing his order, but no opportunity for cross-examination was given to him.
The Delhi Health Minister’s lawyers said the purchase of assets from the proceeds of benami transactions, as contended by the tax department, would not be benami as per the unamended Act.
In the plea, he has also challenged the jurisdiction of the department to invoke the amended provisions of the Act against him.
The tax department had alleged that Jain had funded four companies in which he used to be a director prior to his election, and they in turn had bought land from those proceeds.
The minister had denied any involvement with the companies after his election.
Hundreds of bighas of land, allegedly purchased in and around Delhi by the said four firms, have been provisionally attached by the department under the new benami law which carries a maximum punishment of up to seven years of rigorous imprisonment and a hefty penalty.