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National Herald case: Supreme Court allows Sonia, Rahul’s tax reassessment of 2011-12

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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The Supreme Court today (Tuesday, Dec 4) gave the go-ahead to Income Tax (IT) department for the tax reassessment of Congress President Rahul Gandhi and his mother and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi for the year 2011-12 in a case related to the National Herald newspaper.

However, the Supreme Court bench headed by Justice AK Sikri restrained the department from implementing it during the pendency of their plea in the apex court. It ordered that the I-T team can take up reassessment only after the court hears Gandhis’ petition against the Delhi High Court judgment that had allowed the tax probe.

The court also said it is not expressing any opinion on the merits of pleas filed by the Gandhis. The next hearing in the matter is on January 8, 2018.

Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Congress leader Oscar Fernandes had petitioned against the reopening of their tax assessments related to Associated Journals Ltd (AJL), the publisher of National Herald newspaper.

The Delhi High Court had last month dismissed their petitions, clearing the way for the IT department to scrutinise records for the year 2011-12. The IT department has accused the Congress leaders of having “devised the scheme involving pre-ordinate artificial and fraudulent steps to take over AJL”.

The IT probe against the Congress leaders stems from an investigation into a complaint filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy before a court in connection with the National Herald case.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the IT department, said the court should not restrain it from implementing the assessment orders against the Gandhis and others. He said the court should hear the matter and pass appropriate orders.

Swamy had alleged that Young Indian Pvt Ltd (YIL), which had Sonia and Rahul on its board of directors, had “taken over” the assets of the defunct print media outlet in a “malicious” manner to gain profit and assets worth over Rs 2,000 crore, said a report in The Indian Express (IE).

Apart from the Gandhis, Congress leader Motilal Vora, Oscar Fernandes, journalist Suman Dubey and technocrat Sam Pitroda were also named in the case.

All the accused have denied the allegations levelled against them in the case. On December 19, 2015, court granted bail to Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, Vora, Fernandes and Dubey, who had appeared before it pursuant to summonses. Pitroda was also granted bail on February 20, 2016 when he had appeared in the court.

In the earlier hearing, a bench Justices A K Sikri and S A Nazeer observed that the matter needs “consideration”. The court said it was only concerned with the notice for reassessment, and the rest of the matter could be raised before the assessing officer. “Since respondent (Income Tax department) has put in appearance, we are not issuing a formal notice. However, we are fixing the matter for final arguments on December 4,” the bench said.

The court said it was willing to give two options to the department – either issue a notice and in the meanwhile, an assessing officer can go ahead but the final order will not be given effect, or to hear the matter and decide finally.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

India News

Calcutta High Court suggests changing name of Sita, Akbar lions

Justice Saugata Bhattacharyya asked AAG whether he had any pets and if they were named after national heroes.

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The Calcutta High Court on Thursday suggested to the Bengal government that the names of lioness Sita and lion Akbar, who were placed in the same enclosure at the Bengal Safari Park in Siliguri, could be changed.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) had filed a petition in the High Court to change the name of the lioness Sita, who was recently brought to West Bengal from Tripura.

Hearing a petition, the Single-Judge Bench of Justice Saugata Bhattacharyya orally directed the State to avoid controversy and consider renaming the big cats.

Questioning the intention of the State, Justice Bhattacharyya asked the government if it would name a lion after a Hindu deity, a Muslim prophet or Christian god, a freedom fighter or a Nobel laureate. Generally, anyone who has been revered or respected by the people of our country, Justice Bhattacharyya further asked.

On this occasion, the Additional Advocate General (AAG), appearing for the State, submitted that the naming of the lions took place in Tripura, and it was the responsibility of the Tripura Zoo authorities. Counsel further told the Court that the State itself was already considering changing the name of lions.

Upon hearing the arguments, the Bench also questioned the logic behind naming the lions after a god, freedom fighter or Nobel laureate and further asked why the State did not challenge the names given by Tripura.

The Court further noted that the petition filed by VHP espoused the rights of a large section of people and said that naming a lion after Sita, a largely worshipped by Hindus would hurt their religious sentiments.

During the exchange with AAG, Justice Bhattacharyya also stated that the animals could not be named after respected figures. He further asked AAG whether he had any pets and if they were named after national heroes.

The Bench had directed the petition by VHP to be reclassified as a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) and redirected it to a regular Bench that can hear the same.

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Farmer who died in protest, survived by mentally ill father, unwed sister

Farmer Leader Jagjit Singh Dallewal has asked the Punjab Government to declare Shubhkaran Singh a martyr and provide benefits accordingly. 

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The 21-year-old farmer, Shubhkaran Singh who died during the clashes between the police and the protesting farmers on Khanauri border left behind his mentally ill father and an unwed sister. His mother died years ago.

The 21 years old, a resident of Balloch village of Bathinda in Punjab, left his home on February 13 to join the Delhi Chalo march. Reports stated that Shubhkaran Singh was the youngest among the group of 15 people who left to join the protest from the village.

Reportedly, Shubhkaran was the only son and sole breadwinner of the family. The 21-year-old farmer has about two acres of land. Shubhkaran, who has two sisters, also took a loan for the marriage of his one sister.

The farmers who halted their protest for two days after the death of the youth, have blocked the autopsy. Farmer Leader Jagjit Singh Dallewal has asked the AAP led Punjab Government to declare Shubhkaran a martyr and provide benefits accordingly. The leader further said that the government should create a five member board to conduct the post-mortem examination.

Meanwhile, farmer leader Sarwan Singh Pandher said that the police took action when the farmers were peacefully trying to cross over into Haryana. He added that more than 100 farmers have been injured and demanded the treatment of injured farmers.

Haryana police while appealing for peace said that farmers escalated the violence by attacking the police personnels with sticks and maces and that the police were only trying to restrain them.

Issuing a statement, Additional Inspector General, Manisha Chaudhary said that farmers surrounded the police from all sides, burned stubble by pouring chilli powder in it. She added that around 12 policemen were seriously injured because of the attacks by protestors at Datta Singh Wala-Khanauri border.

Meanwhile, farmer’s leader Pandher said that farmer leaders will discuss future actions and until then, all farmers will remain camped at the borders.

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Congress slams Govt over X blocking accounts linked to farmers protest on Centre’s order, says democracy is being murdered

X disagreed with these actions and maintain that freedom of expression should extend to these posts.

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The Congress party on Thursday slammed the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led central government over the action of microblogging platform X blocking accounts and posts linked to the ongoing farmers’ protest and called it a murder of democracy.

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh, taking to X, said that the action taken by the social media platform on the Centre’s order was a murder of democracy in India.

The Elon Musk-led X, sharing a post on its platform in response to the IT ministry’s order asking it to temporarily block 177 accounts linked to the farmers’ protest, said that the Indian government has issued executive orders requiring it to act on specific accounts and posts, subject to potential penalties, including significant fines and imprisonment.

The X’s Global Government Affairs team further stated that it complied with the orders and they would withhold these accounts and posts in India alone, however, they disagreed with these actions and maintained that freedom of expression should extend to these posts.

Consistent with their position, a writ appeal challenging the Indian government’s blocking orders remains pending. X has also provided the impacted users with notice of these actions following their policies.

Due to legal restrictions, they were unable to publish the executive orders, but they thought that making them public was essential for transparency. This lack of disclosure can lead to a lack of accountability and arbitrary decision-making, the X’s Global Government Affairs said in a post on its platform.

Meanwhile, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also hit out at the Modi government and termed it a murder of democracy. Taking to X, he raised several questions and said if farmers ask for MSP, shoot them. Is this the Mother of Democracy? Gandhi further said that when the youth ask for the appointment, the Centre refuse to even listen to them, if the former governor tells the truth, then they send CBI to his house.

He also attacked the Modi government for freezing the bank accounts of the most prominent opposition party. He added, saying that Section 144, internet ban, sharp wires, and tear gas shells on farmers are not justified in the democracy. He further attacked the Centre for suppressing the voice of the people. He charged on Centre, saying Modi ji public knows that the government have murdered democracy and they will answer it.

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