Supreme Court seeks response from P Chidambaram’s family on I-T dept plea

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it will examine the income tax departments appeals against the Madras High Court order that quashed criminal prosecution against senior Congress leader P Chidambarams family in cases allegedly related to non-disclosure of overseas assets and bank accounts held by them. A bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, while refusing to stay the HC order, sought response from Chidambarams wife Nalini and their son Karti, who is contesting the Lok Sabha elections from Sivaganga constituency in Tamil Nadu, and their daughter-in-law Srinidhi and Chess Global Advisory Service, a company co-owned by Karti. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the department, sought a stay of the HC order dated November 2, 2018, on various grounds, including that it can be used by other accused to avoid criminal prosecution in cases related to black money. However, the Bench said any stay at this stage would amount to allowing the appeal of the department. The revenue authorities stated that the three assessees had not disclosed a property they jointly owned in Cambridge, UK, worth `5.37 crore as per their income tax returns and this amounted to an offence under the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) Act and Imposition of Tax Act. Besides, Karti did not disclose an overseas bank account he held with Metro Bank in the UK and investments he had made in Nano Holdings LLC, USA, they added. Karti also failed to disclose investments made by Chess Global which also amounted to committing an offence under the Black Money Act, the department said, adding that the assessees cannot be allowed to revise their tax returns. The HC, in its judgment, had stated that that the foreign asset in each case was acquired with money that was disclosed in the books of account of the assessee (and tax paid) and which was remitted through banking channels under 2004 schemes approved by RBI. We are of the considered view that Section 55 Block Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015 is not attracted. There was no failure to furnish any information relating to any foreign asset or investment, Revised return of income is the only relevant return of income that can be relied upon or referred to. Revised return of income obliterates or effaces any earlier return of income.

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