Christy Friedgram cases: I-T memo draws HC flak

‘It is false, misleading & contemptuous’

February 11, 2019 01:13 am | Updated 01:13 am IST - CHENNAI

A batch of cases related to alleged tax evasion by Tiruchengode-based Christy Friedgram Industry, which supplies groceries to the State government’s noon meal scheme, has run into rough weather with a judge of the Madras High Court taking serious note of a “false, misleading and contemptuous” memo filed on behalf of the Income Tax department.

Justice T. Raja has passed a judicial order referring the issue to the Chief Justice Vijaya Kamlesh Tahilramani. He also took strong exception to objections raised by the I-T department to the “unprecedented” final hearing of the batch of cases by him, that were just two months old, on a day-to-day basis “without the consent of the department.”

Making it clear that day-to-day hearing of cases by the court could not be termed as an unprecedented practice as alleged by the Principal Director of Income Tax (Investigation) in the memo filed on January 29, the judge said, “In fact, with this practice of day-to-day hearing, I had disposed of 5,027 cases in just three months last year.”

However, what bothered the judge most was a “false” claim in the memo that the department had sought an adjournment of the hearing in the cases till February 7, but he granted time only till January 31.

Terming it as a “factually untrue” statement, the judge said an Indian Revenue Service officer was not expected to file such a false memo.

“The mala fide intention with which this memo has been filed is apparent… It is the prerogative of the court to take up the cases either in the usual course or on an urgent basis by appreciating various factors like disposal of similar cases, decisions rendered in connected cases, public importance and imminent injury or loss that may result due to delay in taking up the cases,” he added. The judge said cases related to Christy Friedgram were taken up for hearing on a day-to-day basis because the entire business of the company had been brought to a standstill due to non-revocation of prohibitory orders preventing it from operating some of its bank accounts.

Serious allegation

Further, the court had to deal with a very serious allegation levelled against the I-T sleuths of having kept the company’s proprietor T.S. Kumarasamy in illegal custody at Indore in Madhya Pradesh between November 5 and 9 last year, even though the police were not empowered to detain any person for more than 24 hours without the court’s permission.

After the judge expressed his displeasure over the “controversial” memo filed by the department, senior counsel P.S. Raman and Satish Parasaran, representing the petitioner, and Additional Solicitor General G. Rajagopalan, urged him to ignore the issue and carry on with the cases since the Principal Director of Income Tax was willing to withdraw the memo.

“However, I am of the view that the matter must be placed before the honourable Chief Justice for further posting,” he said and directed the High Court Registry to place the case bundles as well as his order before her so that she could decide whether he should continue to hear the case or if they should be posted before some other judge.

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