The Supreme Court on Monday snubbed the income-tax department for ‘sleeping over’ in the 2G spectrum scam despite coming to know about the tax evasion by the companies involved.
A bench of Justice GS Singhvi and Justice AK Ganguly brushed aside I- department’s defence that the companies were obstructing the probe and said: “We are sure they (I- Department) would have slept over it otherwise (if the court had not intervened). There is no doubt about it.”
Though the I-T department learnt about the tax evasion by the accused companies in 2008, it initiated action only in March this year after SC directed it to file an action taken report.
While the CBI has already filed two chargesheets against former telecom minister A Raja and several corporate bigwigs, the I-T department has only recently issued statutory notices against some telecom companies for tax-evasion.
The Enforcement Directorate too has told the court that it would complete the process of attachment of properties of the accused companies under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act in two months.
On the other hand the I-T department submitted its status report after being prodded by the court.
Additional solicitor general Vivek Tankha justified the delay in taking action. He claimed the big companies are involved in the case and were creating obstacles. The court snubbed the advocate for terming the firms as “big”. “How are they big? What kind of mindset do you have? Prima facie they all are tax evaders. Do not call them big. Do not insult the word,” the bench added.
It directed the department to complete its proceedings against the “tax-evading” firms within a stipulated time period. The bench also asked the CBI, ED and I-T Department to share information and co-operate each other during the probe.
Tankha told the court that I-T department had directed the telecom companies that have sold their controlling stakes in foreign firms through the route to pay tax on the capital gain from the transactions. The director-general of international transactions has already issued notices to these firms that are being treated as assesses now.
The ASG said: “Some of the companies have already admitted they should be taxed.”
Telenor is one of the foreign firms that has agreed to be assessed. Telenor bought the stakes in Unitech Wireless to roll out the mobile services under the name of Uninor.