Special Correspondent

The case relates to non-filing of income tax returns by the former Chief Minister and Sasikalaa

"Sufficient grounds" to proceed against bothOrder to be challenged in High Court

CHENNAI: An economic offences court here has declined to discharge former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and her friend N. Sasikalaa from the income tax cases pending against them.

Dismissing the discharge pleas, the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (Economic Offences-I), J.V. Raju, said: "After considering the oral evidence and materials, this court is of the view that there are sufficient grounds for proceeding against the petitioners.

There are prima facie grounds that the petitioner has wilfully failed to furnish the returns at present."

The matter relates to non-filing of IT returns by Ms. Jayalalithaa and Ms. Sasikalaa for the assessment year 1993-94.

In the other case, in which M/s Sasi Enterprises is cited as accused, the two again failed to file returns in their capacity as partners of the firm for the assessment years 1991-92 and 1992-93.

While the department pressed for framing of charges against the accused, the defence side had preferred discharge petitions.

In his order, Mr. Raju said the sanction accorded by the Commissioner of Income Tax was valid and the contention that the present proceedings were vitiated on that score was unsustainable. "The bonafides of the petitioners are still to be tested, substantiated and adjudicated, and the chances are still left open to them at the time of trial," he reasoned.

After the orders were pronounced, N. Jothi, counsel for Ms. Jayalalithaa and Ms. Sasikalaa, sought four-week adjournment on the ground that they were to prefer a revision petition in the High Court. Mr. Raju, recording the plea, adjourned the matter to July 5 for further proceedings.

In his submissions, K. Ramasamy, Senior Special Public Prosecutor for the Income Tax Department, said the default was a continuing one by Ms. Jayalalithaa and Ms. Sasikalaa as they were yet to comply with the statutory requirement.

According to the prosecution, any "wilful failure" to file returns of income in accordance with Section 139(1) of the Income Tax Act 1961 was punishable under Section 276CC of the Act. Besides fine, the offence is punishable with a minimum sentence of three years and the maximum of seven years.

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