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SC admits Amarinder’s plea on wealth tax
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, May 2
The Supreme Court today admitted a special leave petition (SLP) of Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh challenging the Punjab and Haryana High Court order holding that three-fourths of the property of his father, the late Maharaja Yadavindra Singh of Patiala, was “assessable” to wealth tax under the Undivided Hindu Family (UHF) category.

Admitting the SLP of Capt Amarinder Singh, in which he has challenged the high court order in respect of 14 wealth tax matters, a Bench of Mr Justice Y K Sabharwal and Mr Justice P P Naolekar directed the Commissioner of Wealth Tax to submit reply within two weeks.

The apex court, however, declined to stay the operation of the high court judgment, saying that without receiving the affidavit of the Wealth Tax Commissioner, there was no question of granting the stay.

Advocates C.S. Agrawal and Arun Walia, appearing for the Chief Minister, wanted the stay on the high court order on the grounds that it would create “difficulty” for him in the assessment of the tax.

“There was no occasion for invoking the provisions of the Wealth Tax Act in these cases by the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) against Capt Amarinder Singh for his ancestral properties, Mr Agrawal said.

He alleged that the high court had not examined the relevant rulings of the apex court and various other high courts while deciding the issue. While giving details of the hierarchy of the Patiala royal family vis-à-vis the legal right of the Chief Minister to his ancestral property, the SLP said the high court had “erred” in coming to the conclusion that the ITAT was right writer law in holding that three-fourths of the value of estate of the late Maharaja Yadavindra Singh was “assessable” in the hands of the UHF and one-fourteenth in the hands of the legal heir and that nothing was “assessible” in the hands of the individual assesee. “On the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the high court was in error in not deciding the question of law as framed and not examining the case on its own merits in respect of the wealth tax assessment in the assessment years in question,” Capt Amarinder Singh in his SLP said.

Though the SLP mentioned the cases of assessment year 1984-85, it said the high court, in its judgement on August 24, 2004, had passed a common order on six wealth tax assessment appeals against the ITAT orders, which dealt with a series of assessment notices by the Income Tax Department.

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