The Income Tax Department has opposed a plea by Sivaganga Member of Parliament Karti P. Chidambaram and his wife Srinidhi Karti Chidambaram to discharge them from prosecution initiated in 2018 for having allegedly evaded capital gains tax in the assessment year 2014-15.
Justice N. Sathish Kumar on Monday decided to commence, in the first week of November, the hearing of arguments on criminal revision petitions filed by the couple against a special court’s refusal to discharge them from the case on the ground that there were materials for trial.
Though the pleadings on the revision petitions had been completed with the I-T Department having filed its counter affidavits through Special Public Prosecutors M. Sheela and N. Baskaran, the petitioners sought time for the appearance of senior counsel Kapil Sibal and P.S. Raman.
In its counter, the Department stated that the couple had made the plea for discharge at a time when the special court for hearing cases against legislators was about to frame charges against them on the basis of the complaint lodged for violation of the Income Tax Act of 1961. It stated that the special court had rightly dismissed the discharge petitions after finding that the Department had made out a prima facie case against the couple for having suppressed the actual sale consideration of their property in Muttukadu and not disclosing the cash part of it.
The Department also told the court that the alleged offence came to light following a hard disk recovered by the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) in a joint search operation conducted by it along with the I-T Department in December 2015 on premises connected to the petitioners. The ED had handed over cloned copies of the hard disk to the Income Tax Investigation wing by following due process of law and a perusal of the hard disk revealed that there were indications of the actual sale amount of the Muttukadu property having been concealed.
In 2018, searches conducted on the premises of Agni Estate and Foundations Private Limited, purchasers of the Muttukadu property, led to the discovery of corroborative materials and hence the Department had chosen to launch criminal prosecution after examination of six witnesses. The Department also claimed that there was no limitation for criminal prosecution in the light of the provisions of the Economic Offences Act of 1974. It further stated the genuineness of the contents of the hard disk could be decided only during the course of trial and not before that.