HC refuses to stay I-T dept.’s demand of ₹83.58 crore from Panneerselvam

Court orders that any steps taken in the interregnum will be subject to result of cases filed by the former Chief Minister

The Madras High Court on Thursday refused to stay operation of orders passed by Income Tax department on September 28 demanding ₹83.58 crore in tax from former Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam for the assessment years 2015-16 to 2017-18. The demand was raised pursuant to the search and seizures made on the premises of businessman J. Sekar Reddy and others in December 2016. Acting Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice P.D. Audikesavalu said though the writ petitioner (Mr. Panneerselvam) had made out an arguable case and the matter required consideration, “no interim order is immediately called for.” The judges, however, made it clear that any steps taken by the Income Tax department in the interregnum would abide by the result of the writ petitions.

They directed the Income Tax department’s senior standing counsel A.P. Srinivas to take notices on behalf of the official respondents and file counter affidavits. The former Chief Minister had filed three writ petitions before the court with identical prayers — to declare as unconstitutional an explanation provided to a particular clause in a notification issued by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) on April 27 this year.

Pending adjudication of the three writ petitions, he had urged the court to stay the operation of the three notices issued to him by the Income Tax department demanding ₹83.58 crore. In the first notice pertaining to the assessment year 2015-16, a demand for ₹20,00,971 had been raised. In the other two notices for 2016-17 and 2017-18, demands for ₹1,26,58,676 and ₹82,12,14,485 respectively had been raised.

The notices stated that the demands had been raised by exercising powers under Section 153C of the Income Tax Act of 1961 which empowers the officials concerned to assess the income of any person and demand appropriate tax if any information regarding his/her undisclosed assets or income gets unearthed during a search and seizure operation undertaken at the premises of another person.

Mr. Panneerselvam had questioned the procedure adopted by the officials while undertaking the assessment proceedings. However, Mr. Srinivas told the court that the law was quite clear and that it had been clearly stipulated that the amended procedure would apply only to searches initiated on or after April 1, 2021 and that searches undertaken before April this year would be governed by the old procedure. After recording his submission, the judges asked him to ensure that counter affidavits were filed within four weeks.

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