April 16, 2024


New Delhi:

In a big relief to the Congress ahead of Lok Sabha polls, the Centre told the Supreme Court today that it will not act against the Opposition party to recover tax dues amounting to over Rs 3,500 crore.

The matter, the court said, will be heard next on July 24.

The Congress had approached the Supreme Court after it received notices from Income Tax department, seeking payment of tax dues amounting to a whopping Rs 3,567 crore. The Opposition party has accused the ruling BJP of “tax terrorism” and alleged the Income Tax department’s move as an attempt to choke it financially in the run-up to polls. The party has said this was disrupting the level-playing field for the polls and also urged the Election Commission to intervene.

Earlier, tax authorities withdrew a sum of Rs 135 crore from a party’s accounts for dues from previous years.

When the case came up before a bench led by Justice BV Nagarathna today, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the central agency will take no coercive action against the Opposition party’s during polls.

“They were given an option to pay 20 per cent in 2024, Rs 135 crore (was) recovered. Rs 1,700 crore demand has been raised later. Therefore, the matter pertains to Rs 1,700 subsequently raised. This whole matter can be fixed for post elections. We will not take any action till then,” he said.

When the court asked if the Centre is pausing the tax demand, Mr Mehta replied, “No, we are just saying that we will not take any action till the election.”

Appearing for the Congress, Senior Advocate Abhishek Singhvi said the Centre has collected Rs 135 crore by attaching properties. “We are not a profit-making organisation, only a political party.”

The Solicitor General said he has much to say on the merits.

The court noted that the issues arising in the appeals are yet to be adjudicated upon and that the matter will be heard on merits going forward.

For now, however, the Congress has reason to feel relieved.

The Congress had earlier said the ruling BJP was in serious violation of tax laws, but the Income Tax department was not acting against it.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had warned that when the government changes, exemplary action will be taken to ensure no one dares to take such steps again.

“When the government changes, action will definitely be taken against those who have disrobed democracy. And such exemplary action will be taken that no one will dare to do all this again. This is my guarantee,” he said in a post on X.

Senior party leader Jairam Ramesh alleged that efforts were being made to financially cripple the Congress, “but we are not going to be cowed down”.

Party leader Ajay Maken said the Congress was being selectively targeted. “What we are saying is that there should be a level-playing field. This action was designed to choke the Congress financially and prevent, stop, delay and disable any election-related expenditure by the party on advertisements, travel, salaries, agencies etc. It is indeed appalling that the financial years assessed go back to 1993-94, when the late Sitaram Kesri was the party’s treasurer,” he said.

“These orders are based on manufactured and planted diaries and so-called raids by the BJP’s frontal organisation on third parties. Several of these raided third parties enjoy stay orders from courts based on vitiated search procedures by I-T department,” he had alleged. Maken claimed, adding that the same interim relief is not being granted to the Congress.



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