National Herald Case: Supreme Court Fixes Final Hearing For Pleas Of Sonia, Rahul Gandhi 
Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi and son Rahul Gandhi. (Photographer: Kamal Singh/PTI)

National Herald Case: Supreme Court Fixes Final Hearing For Pleas Of Sonia, Rahul Gandhi 

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The Supreme Court on Monday fixed March 17 for final hearing on the appeals filed by Congress President Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi against the Delhi High Court order allowing re-assessment of their income tax for 2011-12 in connection with the National Herald case.

The top court noted that the proceedings are pending before Income Tax Appellate Tribunal and it would like to wait till March 17 for the outcome.

A bench of justices DY Chandrachud and Hrishikesh Roy said that it is listing the matter for final disposal on March 17 as it has been apprised by the petitioners that proceedings are pending before the ITAT.

At the outset, senior advocate P Chidambaram, appearing for Sonia Gandhi and others, said that ITAT has delivered a verdict on the issue but has not dealt with at least six issues.

He said that they have moved the ITAT seeking adjudication of six other issues and the next hearing is scheduled to be held on Feb. 28.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Income Tax department, said that the top court had last year, while asking the petitioners to approach ITAT, said that irrespective of proceedings before the tribunal, this court will go on.

He said that Nov. 15 order of ITAT had said that the petitioners were not doing any business. The top court said that the final orders of ITAT may have a bearing on the case before apex court and therefore it would like to see the outcome of proceedings before the tribunal.

The bench, however, clarified that even if the tribunal does not give its finding on pending issues till March 17, then too, it would proceed with the hearing of the cases before it.

On Nov. 15, last year, the ITAT had ruled that the withdrawal of income tax exemption to Young Indian, an entity controlled by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, her family and others, by the tax department is correct and it cannot be called a charitable organisation.

On April 23 last year, the top court had granted liberty to Gandhis and others to approach Delhi ITAT for expeditious hearing of pending appeal challenging the retrospective cancellation of registration granted to Young Indian under the I-T Act.

The Gandhis and senior Congress leader Oscar Fernandes have challenged in the apex court the Delhi High Court's Sept. 10, 2018 verdict which dismissed their plea against the re-assessment of their tax for 2011-12.

The I-T department had contended before the apex court that the proceedings pending before the ITAT were different from the appeals before the apex court.

On Jan. 8 last year, the I-T department had informed the apex court that an assessment order with respect to tax of Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi for 2011-12 in connection with the National Herald case has been passed but has not been given effect.

The tax matter is related to the National Herald case in which other Congress leaders are also facing criminal proceedings.

In December 2018, the apex court had allowed I-T department to re-assess the tax of the top Congress leaders. It had, however, restrained the department from "giving effect" to its order.

The I-T probe against the Congress leaders has arisen from the investigation into a private criminal complaint filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy before a trial court here in connection with the National Herald case, in which the trio is out on bail.

Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi were granted bail in the case by the trial court on Dec. 19, 2015. A tax evasion petition was also addressed to the finance minister by Swamy.

In the complaint before the trial court, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and others have been accused of conspiring to cheat and misappropriate funds by paying just Rs 50 lakh, through which Young Indian had obtained the right to recover Rs 90.25 crore that Associated Journals Ltd. owed to the Congress party. The Congress leaders have denied the allegations.

It was alleged that YI, which was incorporated in November 2010 with a capital of Rs 50 lakh, had acquired almost all the shareholding of AJL, which was running the National Herald newspaper.

The I-T department had said the shares Rahul Gandhi has in YI would lead him to have an income of Rs 154 crore and not about Rs 68 lakh, as was assessed earlier. It has already issued a demand notice for Rs 249.15 crore to YI for the assessment year 2011-12.

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