The Delhi High Court on Thursday sought the response of the Income Tax Department on a plea against its order under the new benami law to attach some assets allegedly linked to Delhi Health Minister Satyender Jain. Justice Vibhu Bakhru issued notice to the income tax department and directed it to file an affidavit on Jain’s plea while listing the matter for hearing on October 11. During the hearing, the I-T department said the petition should not be entertained. However, Jain’s counsel said the department has no jurisdiction. “Proceedings are without jurisdiction. I am a sitting minister and they are defaming me everywhere,” he said.
The court then sought the I-T department’s response explaining the issue raised in the petition. “File an affidavit explaining whether you have the jurisdiction or not, as the same has been claimed by the petitioner,” the judge said. The I-T department has registered a case against Jain under the new Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act.
The department had provisionally attached the land and other assets worth over Rs 30 crore in this case. The CBI, too, has registered a case against Jain on the I-T department’s recommendation.
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. The court had earlier observed there was nothing wrong with the I-T department’s order under the new benami law to provisionally attach some assets allegedly linked to Jain.
The court had also refused to stay the proceedings before the adjudicating authority as was sought by the minister. 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, the court had said it was of the prima facie view that Jain would be covered by the earlier unamended provision also. The court had not issued notice in the matter and had renotified it for today. The income tax department had earlier said the initiating officer has only passed a provisional attachment order and forwarded it to the adjudicating authority, which was yet to even issue a show cause notice.
It had said the adjudicating authority would 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, had claimed that witnesses were examined by the initiating officer before passing the order, but no opportunity for cross-examination was given to him.
The Delhi Health Minister’s lawyers had said the purchase of assets from the proceeds of benami transactions, as contended by the income tax department, would not be benami as per the unamended Act. The tax department has 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 the 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 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.