The Supreme Court Tuesday stayed the Delhi High Court order which had held that the 2016 black money law cannot be allowed to operate with retrospective effect from July 2015 to book and probe offenders. A vacation bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra also stayed the May 16 order of the high court, which had restrained the Income Tax (I-T) department from taking any action against VVIP chopper scam accused Gautam Khaitan, against whom a black money case has been lodged. "Notice. The impugned order (of the high court) is stayed," the bench said while agreeing to hear the appeal of the Centre against the high court order.
The bench issued notice to Khaitan and asked him to file his response to the government's petition within six weeks. The Delhi High Court, in its interim order, had stayed the Centre's notification to make operational the Black Money and Imposition of Tax Act, with effect form July 1, 2015. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the government, had earlier submitted that the high court erred in staying the Centre's notification to invoke the black money law with retrospective effect. On invoking the black money law with retrospective effect, the high court had said Parliament, in its wisdom, had enacted the Act which was to come into force from April 1, 2016 and as the date was expressly decided by Parliament, it could not be made applicable with retrospective effect by way of a notification.
The high court had earlier asked the Centre as to how it gave retrospective effect -- from July 2015 -- to the black money law, which was enacted in April 2016 to deal with undisclosed foreign income and assets. The high court has now posted the matter for hearing in July. Khaitan, one of the accused in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam has challenged the legality of various provisions of the black money law. Khaitan has also challenged the I-T department's January 22 order granting sanction to lodge a criminal complaint against him under section 51 of the Act, which provides for a jail term between three and 10 years if found guilty of wilfully attempting to evade tax.
Khaitan has contended in the plea that action is being taken against him under the Act for assets which ceased to exist before the law came into force. He has sought a declaration that under the black money law, the assessing officer is "not entitled to charge tax on a foreign undisclosed asset, which ceased to exist prior to the Act coming into force, only on the ground that such asset came to the notice of the assessing officer after the Act came into force".