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Court blow to Sonia, Rahul

The Congress president places a stone at the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi in New Delhi. Picture by Prem Singh

New Delhi: Delhi High Court on Monday dismissed petitions from Congress politicians Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Oscar Fernandes that had challenged the reopening of their tax assessments for 2011-12.

The bench of Justices S. Ravindra Bhat and A.K. Chawla said: "The writ petitions have failed."

On August 16, the high court had reserved its order after the income-tax department contended that Rahul's tax assessment for 2011-12 had been reopened on the ground of the concealment of material facts.

The bench had orally asked the income-tax department not to take any coercive step against Sonia, Rahul or Fernandes till it had pronounced its verdict.

Senior advocate P. Chidambaram, appearing for Sonia, had said he had faith in the oral statement made by additional solicitor-general Tushar Mehta.

Mehta had argued that the Congress politicians had alleged mala fide on the part of the income-tax department but had not made any averments on this.

Rahul Gandhi offers water from Kailash Mansarovar at Rajghat on Monday. Picture by Prem Singh

The income-tax cases against the Congress politicians had arisen from a probe into a private criminal complaint lodged by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy with a trial court in connection with the National Herald newspaper case.

Swamy has accused Sonia, Rahul and others of conspiring to misappropriate funds by floating a company called Young Indian that paid only Rs 50 lakh for the right to recover assets worth Rs 90.25 crore that Associated Journals Ltd, the publisher, owed the Congress.

The income-tax department has said the shares Rahul has in Young Indian would lead him to have an income of Rs 154 crore and not around Rs 68 lakh, as was assessed earlier.

It has already issued a demand notice for Rs 249.15 crore to Young Indian for the assessment year 2011-12.

The department's move followed its probe into a complaint alleging the Gandhis had misappropriated Associated Journals' assets while transferring their shares to the newly formed Young Indian. PTI

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