The vacation bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justice Arun Mishra and Justice MR Shah, on Tuesday, stayed the Delhi High Court’s order restraining the Central government from prosecuting Advocate and AgustaWestland scam accused Gautam Khaitan under the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015. The Court has also issued a notice to Khaitan in the appeal filed by the Central Government.

The Delhi High Court had stayed Khaitan’s prosecution on May 16 after his counsel argued that the proceedings against him were illegal as the Centre brought into force the Black Money Act retrospectively from July 1, 2015, instead of April 1, 2016. The High Court had restrained the Central Government and the Income Tax Department from taking any action at this stage against Khaitan under the provisions of the Act. “We are of the opinion that the petitioner (Gautam Khaitan) has made out a good prima facie case for grant of interim relief,” the Delhi High Court had said. It added, “In the prima facie, we find ourselves unable to agree with the submission made on behalf of the official respondents (Centre and Income tax department).”  

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta argued before the SC bench that if the Delhi High Court’s order is sustained, then all proceedings initiated under the Black Money Act across the country would be stalled. The bench issued notice to Khaitan seeking his response in six weeks and stayed the operation of the High Court’s order, which means the income tax department can continue with the proceedings against him.

Khaitan is one of the accused in the Rs. 3,600 crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam and is currently out on bail.  In January, the I-T department had granted sanction to lodge a criminal complaint against him under the black money law. The law provides for a jail term between three and ten years if found guilty of willfully attempting to evade tax. He was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate pursuant to an investigation under the Act, on January 26. As per the prosecution, Khaitan had deposited about Rs. 6,000 crores in offshore accounts. A charge sheet has also been filed against Gautam Khaitan, for violation of provisions under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002.

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