Contention on I-T returns rejected

In a setback to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, the Supreme Court on Thursday cleared the decks for her prosecution, initiated by the Income Tax Department in the Additional Chief Metropolitan Court, Economic Offences-1, Egmore, Chennai, for non-filing of income tax returns during 1991-92 and 1992-93 by Sasi Enterprises and by herself as its partner for 1993-94.

A Bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and A.K. Sikri rejected her contention that non-filing of returns per se was not an offence as there was no income and no tax evasion, and directed the lower court to complete the trial in four months.

If convicted, she will attract a minimum of three-month imprisonment or a maximum of three years and a fine, and the possibility of disqualification from the Assembly.

The Bench dismissed a batch of appeals filed by Ms. Jayalalithaa, her close aide N. Sasikalaa and Sasi Enterprises, of which both were partners, against a Madras High Court judgment that threw out their discharge petitions.

The Income Tax Department instituted criminal proceedings in 1996 and 1997 against Ms. Jayalalithaa. Cases were also filed against Ms. Sasikalaa and Sasi Enterprises. The trial court dismissed their applications for discharge, and the High Court rejected appeals.

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