SC to hear I-T dept plea against quashing of black money case involving Chidambaram’s family

The Supreme Court Tuesday agreed to hear the Income Tax department’s appeal challenging the Madras High Court order which quashed criminal prosecution against senior Congress leader P Chidambaram’s family members under the black money law.

The top court, however, refused to stay the order of the high court.

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna issued notice to Chidambaram’s wife Nalini and their son Karti, who is contesting Lok Sabha election from Sivaganga constituency in Tamil Nadu.

The bench also sought reply from Karti’s wife Srinidhi and others in the case.

The high court had quashed criminal prosecution initiated by the I-T department under the Black Money Act against the three.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the I-T department, sought stay of the high court order of 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.

To this, the bench said that granting stay at this stage without hearing the other side would amount to allowing the appeal of the I-T department.

The Solicitor general further said that if the stay is not granted then other high courts may quash the criminal prosecution against similarly placed accused under the black money law and urged that the November order of the high court should not be treated as a precedent.

The bench said that it will not be treated as a precedent as the high court would be cognizant of the fact that the apex court is seized of the matter and is scrutinizing the Madras High Court order.

The issue relates to alleged non-disclosure of overseas assets and bank accounts held by the trio.

According to the I-T Department, the three had not disclosed a property they jointly owned in Cambridge in the UK worth Rs 5.37 crore in their returns which amounted to an offence under the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) Act and Imposition of Tax Act.

It also alleged that Karti did not disclose an overseas bank account he holds with Metro Bank in the UK and investments he had made in Nano Holdings LLC, USA.

He had also “failed” to disclose investments made by Chess Global Advisory, a company co-owned by him, which amounted to committing an offence under the Black Money Act, the department had said in its complaint in the special court in May last year.

On the issue, Karti’s spokesperson said the I-T department had alleged that a house property was not disclosed in the I-T returns of Karti Chidambaram and his family members.

“The I-T department’s complaint was challenged in the Madras High Court. The High Court quashed the complaint as baseless and illegal,” he said, adding that Karti and others will appear in due course and contest the case.

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