Blow to Gandhis, HC upholds I-T department move

NEW DELHI: Faceless assessment is not a fundamental or vested legal right that a tax assessee can claim, the Delhi high court held on Friday while dismissing a batch of petitions by Congress members Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra against the income tax department’s decision to transfer their assessments for 2018-19 to its central circle that is mandated to check evasion. The transfer of tax assessments was done in a case linked to fugitive arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari.
The court also rejected AAP’s petition challenging the transfer of its tax assessment from the exemption circle to the central circle in New Delhi along with an instruction to club it with that of former Delhi minister Satyendar Jain.
“The Income Tax Act stipulates that the central government ‘may make a scheme’ to eliminate the interface between the assessing officer and the assessee. This implies the central government has the discretion to frame or not to frame a faceless assessment scheme,” the bench of Justices Manmohan and Dinesh Kumar Sharma said, upholding the department’s transfer decision citing better coordination and efficiency.
A faceless assessment entails proceedings that are conducted electronically without any physical interface between the taxpayer and the tax official.

In their plea, the Gandhis and AAP contended that the I-T department’s central circle was meant to handle search and seizure cases, while theirs was “an ordinary assessment matter”. The petitioners said the guidelines of the Central Board of Direct Taxes had been violated by transferring their assessments to that particular circle. The Gandhis maintained their assessments had nothing to do with the allegations against Bhandari.
Besides the Gandhis, various trusts, including the Sanjay Gandhi Memorial Trust, Rajiv Gandhi Foundation and Young Indian had questioned the authorities’ decision to transfer their cases to the central circle and club these with a matter linked to Bhandari. While rejecting the pleas, the bench cited the I-T department’s counter affidavit stating that the transfers were “for the purposes of better coordination and meaningful assessment of the present cases either with those of

Robert Vadra

(Priyanka’s husband) and Sanjay Bhandari or Satyendar Jain”. Fugitive Bhandari, wanted in India for money laundering, has been linked to Vadra in connection with a London flat.
“Undoubtedly, there can be no ‘guilt by association’ or ‘guilt due to relationship’,” the bench said, allaying the petitioners’ apprehensions that they were being unfairly investigated. “No final view has been or can be taken without a fair and adequate opportunity given to the assessees to explain that they are not connected in any manner with the said cases for the purpose of assessment during the assessment proceedings. Consequently, there are absolutely no adverse civil consequences against the petitioners.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top