The Delhi High Court on Friday sought the Income Tax Department's response on pleas by Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra against the decision to transfer their IT assessments to another section on the ground of treating it along with arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari's group.
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.
Senior advocate Arvind Datar, representing the Gandhis, said the Central Circle deals with search and raid cases, and none of the assessees had been searched.
Therefore, relegating them to the Central Circle made no sense and no any reason had been given for doing so, Datar said.
A bench of Justices Rajiv Shakdher and Talwant Singh issued a notice to the IT Department and asked it to file a counter affidavit in response to the three petitions. The court listed the matter for further hearing on April 6, when a batch of similar matters is already fixed.
Bhandari wanted in India on money laundering charges, has been allegedly linked to Priyanka Gandhi's husband, Robert Vadra, over a London-based flat. Vadra has denied any business connections with the accused.
The Gandhis have challenged the order issued by the Income Tax principal commissioner to transfer their cases for the assessment year 2018-19 to the Central Circle.
Datar submitted that their cases could not have been transferred to Central Circle as there was no question of any search or seizure in their regard.
He said when a case was transferred from an ordinary circle to the Central Circle, it was mandatory for the IT officer to mention the reason for the transfer and sought an interim order in favour of the Gandhis.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the IT Department, said he was opposing any interim relief as no assessment was pending right now and the case was different from the earlier cases filed by other entities, including the Sanjay Gandhi Memorial Trust, the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation and Young Indian.
"Assessment under one circle or the other is neither fundamental nor statutory right of the assessee. Right to fair assessment is a statutory right.
"Transfer from one circle to another due to administrative exigencies does not cause any prejudice to the assessee. He has the same rights, remedies, contentions and obligations," the law officer submitted.
He added that since the transfer was within the city, no prejudice was caused to the assessee and the mandate demands that if transfer is from one city to another, the officer had to give a hearing to the assessee and not in case of transfer within the city.
The Gandhis counsel also said the case of Priyanka Gandhi's husband Robert Vadra had been transferred to the central circle, but he had not challenged it.