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Income tax dept opposes Jayalalithaa's plea for stay on I-T case trial
September, 24th 2014

The Income tax department went hammer and tongs at a trial court hearing the income tax returns cases against Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa and her friend N Sasikala, saying it had acted like an advocate of the accused.

Senior prosecutor of the income tax department K Ramasamy told the Madras high court that the economic offences court at Egmore here had granted more than 100 adjournments to the duo thus far and even the Supreme Court order directing it to complete trial within a time limit had not improved the situation.

Justice K B K Vasuki, who is hearing four petitions filed by Jayalalithaa and Sasikala to stay the ongoing proceedings in the economic offences court at Egmore here, said she would pass orders on the matter on Wednesday.

The two are facing cases for their alleged wilful failure to file tax returns for the years 1992-93 and 1993-94, which is a punishable offence under Section 276(CC) of the IT Act. The cases were filed in the year 1996. After inordinate delay, the case bounced back to life after the Supreme Court on January 30 directed the trial court to complete the trial within four months. By another order, the court extended the date till September 6, 2014.

As they have been asked to be present in the trial court on October 1, they have filed the present petition saying their applications for compounding the offences were pending before the income tax department and that the trial court should not hear the case until a decision was taken on their applications. The outer time limit for processing compounding applications is 180 days, which would expire only on December 24 this year, their senior counsel B Kumar said.

Another senior counsel and party MP, A Navaneethakrishnan, representing Sasikala, said it was a compoundable offence and hence the benefit should be given to the applicants.

However, Ramasamy said neither the trial court nor the high court had any jurisdiction to entertain any petition seeking extension of deadline laid down by the Supreme Court and said a remedy for the two was to approach the apex court and obtain some direction or the other. He wondered as to why they were afraid of approaching the Supreme Court.

Noting that the compounding an offence was departmental proceedings and hence not binding on criminal proceedings in courts, Ramasamy said both could proceed parallel and independent of each other. Wishing the two leaders all the best in compounding the offence, the veteran prosecutor said if they succeeded, the benefit would go to them. But anticipating any order or progress, the criminal proceedings should not be held up, he said.

Assailing the trial court and its indifferent approach to the deadline stipulated by the Supreme Court, Ramasamy said the income tax department had already constituted a committee involving three chief IT commissioners to handle the applications, but made it clear that even compounding of the offence would be done only after obtaining necessary instructions from the apex court. "The Supreme Court is monitoring the case," he said.

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