No coercive action against Cong over tax demand notices in view of LS polls: I-T dept to SC

The Income Tax department on Monday told the Supreme Court that it will not take any coercive action against the Congress over the tax demand notices of approximately Rs 3,500 crore in view of the Lok Sabha elections.
Income Tax Department to Supreme Court regarding action against Congress
Income Tax Department to Supreme Court regarding action against Congress

New Delhi | The Income Tax department on Monday told the Supreme Court that it will not take any coercive action against the Congress over the tax demand notices of approximately Rs 3,500 crore in view of the Lok Sabha elections.

A bench of Justice B V Nagarathna and Justice Augustine George Masih recorded the statement of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the I-T department, that no precipitative action will be taken in the prevailing circumstances till the final adjudication of the matter.

The bench posted the Congress' plea against the tax demand notices for July.

At the outset, Mehta said, "I want to make a statement in this matter. The Congress is a political party and since elections are going on, we are not going to take any coercive action against the party." The department is not commenting on the merit of the matter and all rights and contentions should be left open, he said.

Senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi, appearing for the Congress appreciated the gesture, terming it "gracious", and said all demand notices were issued in March and before for different years totalling approximately Rs 3,500 crore.

The Congress on Sunday said it has received fresh notices from the Income Tax department, raising a tax demand of Rs 1,745 crore for the assessment years 2014-15 to 2016-17. With this latest notice, the Income Tax department has raised a total demand of Rs 3,567 crore from the party, it had said.

On Friday the party said it received notices from the I-T department, asking it to pay around Rs 1,823 crore. The tax authorities have already withdrawn Rs 135 crore from the party's accounts for a tax demand relating to previous years.

New Delhi | In a relief for the Congress, the Income Tax department on Monday told the Supreme Court that it will not take any coercive action against the opposition party for tax demand notices of Rs 3500 crore approximately in view of Lok Sabha elections.

A bench of justices BV Nagarathna and Augustine George Masih recorded the statement of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the IT department, that no precipitative action will be taken in the prevailing circumstances till the final adjudication of the matter.

"At the commencement of the hearing on this application, the solicitor general appearing for the respondent department, submitted that there is no dispute that on several dates in the month of March 2024, demands have been raised as against the appellant herein totalling approximately Rs 3500 crore," the bench noted.

It further recorded, "It is further submitted (by SG Tushar Mehta) that issues which arise in these appeals are yet to be adjudicated upon but having regard to the situations now, the department does not wish to precipitate the matter as much as no coercive steps shall be taken by the respondent department with regard to the aforesaid demand of Rs 3500 crore approximately." The bench posted the Congress' plea against different tax demand notices for hearing on July 24, 2024.

Senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi, appearing for the Congress party, appreciated the gesture terming it "gracious" and said that all demand notices were issued in February and March for different years totalling Rs 3500 crore approximately.

"I am very rarely rendered speechless. By my learned friend's intervention, I have been rendered speechless. Kindly have it in July," he said.

At the outset, Mehta said, "To balance the equity. The petitioner is a political party. Based upon the 2016 judgement, which is under challenge, we have raised the demand of Rs 1700 crore. Since the election is going on, we would not like any problem to arise for any party and therefore, till the matter is heard after the election, we will not take any action for recovery of Rs 1700 crore." He said that the impugned judgement of the Delhi high court is of March 23, 2016, and based upon the parameters set by it, a tax demand was raised against the party in 2021.

"They were given an option to pay 20 per cent of that demand but they did not avail. Thereafter, nothing was paid. Therefore in 2024, we recovered Rs. 135 crore of 2021 demand and based upon the same parameters, now we have issued a demand of Rs 1700 crore approximately," Mehta submitted.

He added that the I-T department has a lot to say on the merit of the issue and they would like to file a reply to the main petition filed against the high court's verdict.

Justice Nagarathna asked Mehta whether the demand notices were the subject matter of the petition.

Mehta replied, "No, that is not the subject matter of the petition." Elaborating on the sequence of events, Mehta said in 2016, the high court gave the judgement and laid down parameters.

"Based upon that we (I-T department) have raised the demand of Rs 135 crore and it is recovered. Now, based upon that very parameter which has been laid down by the high court in 2016, in different proceedings for different reasons, which I am not going into because that will muddy the water, but I have much to say, we have raised the demand of Rs 1700 crore," he said.

The bench asked if he meant to keep the demand raised in abeyance.

Mehta said, "No, I don't want to keep the demand in abeyance. I am saying that please record my statement that till the matter is heard in the second week of June or whenever, we will not take any coercive steps with regard to the demand raised".

Singhvi pointed out that in March several tax demand notices were issued and the amount is not Rs 1700 crore but about Rs 3500 crore approximately for a block of five years.

According to the Congress party, it has received fresh notices from the Income Tax department, raising a tax demand of Rs 1,745 crore for the assessment years 2014-15 to 2016-17.

With this latest notice, the Income Tax department has raised a total demand of Rs 3,567 crore from the Congress.

According to sources, the fresh tax notices relate to 2014-15 (Rs 663 crore), 2015-16 (around Rs 664 crore) and 2016-17 (around Rs 417 crore).

The authorities have ended the tax exemption available to political parties and have taxed the party for the entire collections, they added.

On March 28, the high court rejected petitions by the Congress challenging the initiation of tax reassessment proceedings against it for a period of four years from 2017 to 2021 by tax authorities.

On March 22, the high court dismissed another plea of the Congress challenging the reassessment proceedings initiated against it by the Income Tax Department, saying the tax authority has collated "substantial and concrete" evidence warranting further scrutiny and examination.

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