The Madras High Court on Tuesday ordered the Income Tax department to provide three family members of former Union minister P Chidambaram and a firm with copies of the sanction order for initiation of prosecution against them under the black money act by June 14. Passing interim orders on petitions filed by Chidambaram’s wife Nalini, son Karti and daughter-in-law Srinidhi, besides the firm, the first bench of Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice P T Asha also directed the I-T department to furnish copies of the prosecution complaints lodged in a court here to them. It then posted the matter to June 19.
The petitioners, including the Chess Global Advisory, a company linked to Karti, have challenged the complaints filed by the I-T department on May 11 in a special court for economic offences, accusing them of not disclosing their foreign assets.
The complaints were filed under section 50 of the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015 and pertain to assessment year 2016-17. They have been charged with allegedly not disclosing a property worth Rs 5.37 crore they jointly owned in Cambridge in the UK.
The department has also alleged that Karti had failed to disclose an overseas bank account he held with the Metro Bank in the UK and the investments he had made in the Nano Holdings LLC, USA.
Besides this, Karti had also “failed” to disclose the investments made by the Chess Global Advisory, a company co-owned by him, which amounted to an offence under the Act, the department has said in the complaints.
Assailing the move, the three have moved the high court, seeking an interim order staying the prosecution and a direction to the department to provide a copy of the complaint to them.
When the plea came up for hearing, Nalini, herself a senior counsel, appeared on behalf of the Chess Global Advisory. She contended that the person who issued the sanction for prosecution was not the competent officer and the court in which the prosecution complaint was filed was also not the competent forum.
The special court for economic offences did not have jurisdiction to take cognizance of the complaint, she said. Nalini further submitted that the law mandated that a special court must be established to hear cases under the black money act, adding that so far, the Centre had not notified any such special court.
Additional Solicitor General G Rajagopalan, who represented the I-T department, submitted that they were ready to satisfy the court about the competency of the officer, who had issued the sanction, as well as about the court in which the prosecution was launched. He further said that if the court ordered, the department was ready to furnish the copies of the sanction order as well as the prosecution complaint.
Senior counsels A R L Sundaresan and Sathish Parasaran, who appeared for the other petitioners, submitted that arguments had to be made primarily on two issues — with regard to the competency of the authority and the jurisdiction of the special court. On May 30, a single-judge vacation bench had declined to stay the prosecution by the I-T department and the matter was later posted before the first bench.