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SC to hear on October 9 pleas of Congress leaders, AAP against transfer of IT assessment to central circle
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday posted for hearing on October 9 the pleas of Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the Aam Aadmi Party, and several charitable trusts challenging the decision of Income Tax department to transfer their tax assessments to the central circle.
A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and SVN Bhatti asked the IT department to apprise the stage of proceedings of the matter and produce original files in the cases for its perusal on the next date of hearing.
"In case of faceless assessment, officers, review, verification committee are chosen by computer? I don't want explanations, but a factual answer. Also, would like to know the stage of proceedings. Get the original files too," Justice Khanna told counsel appearing for the IT Department.
The technology-driven faceless assessment system enables a random selection of tax cases through Artificial Intelligence and machine learning, with reduced discretion from or no human interface with the income-tax department.
The apex court was hearing appeals filed against the Delhi High Court order which had dismissed petitions by Congress leaders and others against the Income Tax department's decision to transfer their assessments to the central circle, which is mandated to check tax evasion, instead of an ordinary assessment in a matter related to fugitive arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari.
The High Court had also rejected separate the petitions of Sanjay Gandhi Memorial Trust, Jawahar Bhawan Trust, Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust, Young Indian and the Aam Aadmi Party, raising similar legal issues on the transfer of their assessments to Central Circle.
The central circle is mandated with checking tax evasion. They take over the evidence gathered by the investigation wing during searches.
The Gandhis, in the High Court, had challenged the January 2021 order issued by the Principal Commissioner (Income Tax) to transfer their cases for assessment year 2018-19 to the central circle.
The High Court had said that "the assessments of the petitioners have been transferred only for the purposes of coordinated investigation and meaningful assessment and clarified it has not examined the “controversy between the parties on merits”.
Gandhis opposed the transfer of their cases to the central circle on several grounds, including 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 flat. Vadra, however, has denied any business connections with the accused.