The Himachal Pradesh High court decided to expedite hearing of writ petitions of Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and his family, challenging the transfer of their income tax return cases out of the state.
A division bench comprising Chief Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir and Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan passed the order, which was reserved Sep 24, after hearing arguments of the respective counsel of the petitioners and the respondent, the commissioner of income tax in Shimla.
“Keeping in view the request made by counsel for the respondent, we deem it is proper to hear these writ petitions expeditiously,” the bench observed.
It listed the matter for next hearing Nov 18.
“We may observe that since the parties have not argued the cases on merits, it is not fair to return findings whether the stay is to be vacated or to be made absolute,” the judges said.
“However, it’s made clear that in case any action becomes time barred in the interregnum, the period from the date of passing of the stay order shall be excluded, while computing the time limit.”
The chief minister and his family had challenged the orders of the income tax commissioner to transfer their cases to Chandigarh on the ground of conducting coordinated and joint investigation in all cases.
They had stated that the coordinated and joint investigation of all cases could be done in Shimla also and there was no need to transfer the cases to Chandigarh as this would only result in harassment to them.
The bench Aug 4 stayed an order of the income tax commissioner of Shimla to transfer their cases relating to investigations to Chandigarh.
Counsel for the income tax department argued that the interim direction i.e. stay order granted is adversely affecting the department because it’s not in a position to draw proceedings as per the mandate of law and by efflux of time the said proceedings would become time-barred.
The income tax commissioner, in his orders, had said the agricultural income had dramatically increased in the revised return, which was an apparent attempt to justify the investments made in the purchase of insurance policies.
The assessees had close relations and business dealings amongst themselves and with businessman Vakamulla Chandrashekhar and his company Tarini Infrastructure Ltd, which require coordinated and joint investigations in all cases.
He had transferred all the cases to deputy commissioner of income tax of central circle in Chandigarh, saying that centralisation of cases would enable the department to conduct focused, synchronized and coordinated investigation.