Updated: September 3, 2021 10:06:27 am
A local court in Ludhiana Thursday allowed the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to inspect the fresh documents submitted by the Income Tax department in the ongoing tax evasion cases against Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh and his son Raninder Singh.
The court of Additional District Sessions Judge, Raj Kumar, of Ludhiana, dismissed a plea by Raninder Singh challenging a lower court order of September 2020 that allowed the ED to inspect the files. The court also directed the parties to the case to appear before the trial court on September 9.
Amarinder and Raninder were booked in three cases filed by the I-T department for allegedly amassing wealth in foreign countries and then concealing information to evade income tax. The Ludhiana court is hearing all three cases – two against Raninder and one against Amarinder.
The ED in August last year had filed three applications in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Ludhiana seeking to inspect the fresh documents filed by the I-T department in the ongoing cases. The central agency had initiated probe against Raninder in 2016 under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) after the I-T department alleged that he had lied about the trusts that he allegedly owned in Virgin Islands. Raninder had even appeared before the ED in connection with the FEMA violation case and the agency, to carry forward its investigation, wanted to inspect the fresh records.
The Ludhiana court had allowed ED the inspection of the new records. Raninder challenged the order contending that that no opportunity of hearing was given to revisionists before allowing the application of ED, which is against the principle of natural justice. Raninder further submitted that the ED has no locus standi to file the application for inspection before the trial court as till date no cognizance has been taken against him.
The court of Additional District Sessions judge, however, observed that a perusal of rules pertaining to inspection of judicial records reveals that a stranger to a civil or criminal case may, for sufficient reason shown to the satisfaction of court, inspect the record of such pending cases. “The matter regarding the inspection was between the ED and the court. So, it was for the court, seized with the matter, to record its satisfaction and allow the inspection of the record to the stranger,” read the court order.
The court further observed that in view of inspection rules, a stranger to a case can inspect civil as well as criminal pending file for sufficient reasons and the ED is an independent investigation agency under the FEMA. So the department has locus standi to inspect the file and, in case the inspection to the ED is not allowed, it would create a hurdle in the investigation.
Dismissing the revision plea, the court said that no interference is warranted and there is no merit in the plea.
Meanwhile, a source in ED said, “The I-T department, in its cases against CM and his son, had placed on record that they had carried out some undisclosed financial transactions through a bank account in HSBC, Geneva, and HSBC Financial Services Limited (Middle East) and own some properties offshore”.
Raninder, while appearing before ED in 2020, had said that he will cooperate with the investigating agency.
The case against Amarinder Singh is registered under section 277 (false statement of verification) of the I-T Act while two other cases against Raninder are registered under section 276-C (evasion of tax) and section 277 of the I-T Act, with I-T department being the complainant in all three cases.
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