The Delhi High Court on May 26 dismissed petitions by Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra against the Income Tax Department's decision to transfer their assessments to the Central Circle instead of an ordinary assessment in a matter related to arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari.
The Court also rejected separate petitions, which raised similar legal issues, by Sanjay Gandhi Memorial Trust, Jawahar Bhawan Trust, Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust, Young Indian and the Aam Aadmi Party.
Gandhis challenged the order issued by the Income Tax Principal Commissioner to transfer their cases for assessment year 2018-19 to the Central Circle. Central Circles are mandated with checking tax evasion. They take over the evidence gathered by investigation wing during searches.
“The assessment of petitioners have been transferred to the Central Circle in accordance with law. The present writ petitions are dismissed,” said a Bench of Justices Manmohan and Dinesh Kumar Sharma while pronouncing the verdict.
“Undoubtedly there cannot be guilt by association or relationship, yet in the present matters, assessments have been transferred for the purposes of a coordinated investigation,” added the Bench.
The court said Central Circle jurisdiction is not confined to search cases and no assessee has any fundamental or vested legal right to be assessed by a faceless assessing officer. The court clarified it has not examined the “controversy between the parties on merits”.
The transfer of their cases to the Central Circle was opposed by the Gandhis on the ground that they have nothing to do with the Sanjay Bhandari group's cases.
Bhandari, wanted in India on money-laundering charges, has been allegedly linked to Priyanka Gandhi's husband, Robert Vadra, over a London-based flat. Mr. Vadra has denied any business connections with the accused.