CHENNAI: The Madras High Court on Wednesday directed the Income-Tax Department to dispose of the compounding applications of AIADMK supremo and Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and her friend V K Sasikala, within six weeks.
Justice K B K Vasuki, who gave the direction on Wednesday, also dispensed with their appearance before the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (Economic Offences Court-I) in Egmore, on October 1.
While passing orders on September 18, the trial court had directed the duo to appear before it on October 1 for questioning under Section 313 (1) (a) and for framing of charges.
The charge against them was that they had failed to submit the returns for the assessment years 1992-93 and 1993-94.
Passing orders on the criminal original petitions seeking to quash the lower court order, the judge observed that it is incumbent upon the department to ultimately dispose of the compounding applications and it need not wait till the expiry of the outer time limit of 180 days.
The applications can also be disposed of as expeditiously as possible and in the event of the same being allowed in favour of the petitioners, the continuation of the proceedings before the criminal court will be of no use. The applications are also under due process for the past three months and have reached a certain stage, the judge pointed out.
The Supreme Court had held that the criminal court has to give due regard to the result of any proceedings under Income Tax Act having a bearing on the question in issue and in an appropriate case it may drop the proceedings in the light of the order passed under the Act.
Only in this context, this court is inclined to reiterate the fact that any decision on the compounding applications will have a direct bearing on the criminal prosecution pending before the lower court.
The issue is being dealt with by two different wings - the criminal court and the department. While the criminal court is to comply with the Supreme Court order by pressing for the proceedings to go on, the other wing, that is the department has been making slow progress in dealing with the applications.
“This court, in the exercise of extraordinary jurisdiction vested under Section 482 Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), deems it fit to strike a balance and for that purpose feels it expedient to direct the authorities concerned, who are also vested with prosecution as well as compounding power, to dispose of the applications as expeditiously as possible.” In that event, for the purpose of answering the questions subject to the order passed by the Supreme Court regarding extension of time, will not in any manner cause prejudice to the department.
Under identical circumstances a division bench and a single judge of the Madras High Court had passed similar orders. “This court issues appropriate
direction to the department to dispose of the compounding applications within six weeks and to dispense with their appearance before the trial court for answering the questioning under section 313(1) (a) CrPC,” the judge said.
Justice K B K Vasuki added that the direction shall be subject to further direction to be issued by the Supreme Court.