ANI Photo | Tribunal reserves order on Congress plea seeking stay against IT recovery proceedings, freezing bank accounts

Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) on Thursday reserved its order on a plea by the Congress party, which has sought a stay against Income Tax Department proceedings of recovery and freezing of their bank accounts.
The ITAT bench of GS Pannu, Vice President, and Anubhav Sharma, Judicial Member decided to reserve the order after the two sides made their submissions.
Appearing for the Congress party, Senior Advocate Vivek Tankha submitted that if a stay is not granted, the party would be under grave financial crunch ahead of Lok Sabha polls. “So we need a protection order at this moment of time,” Tankha said.
“Parties and elections will come and go but Revenue Department belongs to the Government of India, it has to go by law. If there’s only one party, how will democracy survive?” he asked.
Advocate Zoheb Hossain, appearing for the Income Tax Department, submitted that this is a regular recovery proceeding and also argued that the conduct of Congress is not correct as they have not paid the tax dues.
On Wednesday, the Income Tax Department submitted before the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) that they acted with responsibility, and their action was fully in line with the law to obtain demand drafts of Rs 65 crore from the bank accounts of the Congress party.
The Income Tax Department on Tuesday recovered Rs 65 crore from the accounts of the Indian National Congress out of the total outstanding tax dues of Rs 115 crore.
Zoheb Hossain had on Wednesday defended the decision to recover the amount and submitted that there has been a breach of rules by Congress and, in such a scenario, the entity must be treated as a normal assessee.
He submitted that on July 6, 2021, the first notice of recovery was given. He said the Congress party filed an appeal for a complete stay on October 28, 2021 but for this, they had to deposit 20 per cent of the dues as per IT Act. He said they were requested to pay 20 percent of the demand but it was not done.
“On January 9, 2023, we sent another letter seeking payment for outstanding demand. We received an email from Congress seeking an adjournment only. Over period of four years, their conduct was not to pay,” he said.
IT Department counsel said an application to Commissioner of Income Tax (Appeals) March 28, 2023 for a stay of demand application became infructuous as the appeal was dismissed on merit.
Hossain said a false narrative is being created that “they’re being targeted before the general elections and this narrative is completely baseless.”.
Tankha had argued on Wednesday that compliance requirements have been met.
“Wrong interpretation has been given by Income Tax. Our bank account has been frozen and on February 16 our accounts were made lien. Last evening, they went and withdrew Rs 65 crore. We are one of the largest party and we are on the eve of the election. If our accounts are frozen like this, how a democracy will survive,” he said.
“This is not a case where Rs 135 crore demand should be made on us while we are right ahead of polls. All the bank accounts at that point in time were frozen. I’m not a runaway person, I’m a 100 year old party…to put such a condition right before elections is to ensure that I don’t participate in the festival of democracy,” he added.
The Congress has recently approached the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) against the recovery and has filed a complaint and sought stay against Income Tax Department proceedings of recovery and freezing of their Bank accounts.
In the complaint, the Congress said the Income Tax Department has enforced its lien by encashing some of the balances lying with the banks without waiting for the outcome of the hearing scheduled before the bench. Congress appealed that the department should not proceed further till the disposal of the stay application. (ANI)

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