Amidst ongoing agitation against the three Farm Laws enacted by the Centre and opposed by farmers in Punjab and elsewhere, the Chief Minister’s son was asked to explain the alleged transaction of funds to Switzerland and creation of a trust in the tax haven of British Virgin Islands and alleged possession of undisclosed assets abroad. Raninder was questioned for six hours and recorded his statement, his counsel Jaiveer Shergill said. Little doubt that Congress leaders in hushed tones point out that it was a political vendetta. However, CM’s son refused to be drawn into a controversy and quipped, “you can draw an inference”.
The alleged possession of the properties abroad was first investigated by the I-T Department. Raninder was earlier summoned by the ED on November 6 but he skipped it for health reasons. Prior to this too, he did not arrive for questioning on October 27, claiming that he had to attend a meeting with the Parliamentary Standing Committee in his capacity as president of National Rifle Association of India. In August, the ED had filed three applications in a Ludhiana court for the inspection of new documents filed by the I-T department against Amarinder and his son.
The ED had initiated action in 2016 against Raninder on the complaint of the I-T department, which said that Raninder lied about trusts allegedly owned by him in the British Virgin Islands.
The summoning of the Punjab chief minister’s son had led to the Congress claim that it was a fallout of the Punjab government bringing out its own agri laws. This is the third time Raninder has been summoned by the ED this year. On October 27, he failed to appear before the ED owing to a meeting in the Rajya Sabha and again on November 6 (in the same case) citing health reasons. He last appeared before the ED on July 21, 2016.
Raninder told, “I am a law-abiding citizen and have appeared before the ED. I am ready to appear whenever summoned by the ED or any government agency, subject to inquiry. We will continue to cooperate with the authorities in the inquiry.”
While key Congress leaders have time and again alleged political vendetta in the timing of his summoning by the ED, Raninder said: “I can’t comment any further on the issue as the case is subject to inquiry. I leave this to your judgment.” While commenting on the long duration of the questioning, Shergill said: “That is the standard operating procedure of the ED. He has earlier, too, been questioned for five hours. We are extending all cooperation.”
The ED probe concerns an investigation into assets acquired abroad and movement of funds, a case first investigated by the Income Tax Department. The IT probe alleged there were discrepancies in the full disclosure of assets — a charge denied by Raninder.
The summons pertain to a case registered by the ED under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) with regard to alleged possession of undisclosed assets abroad. He was questioned by the agency in this case in 2016 and was asked to explain the alleged movement of funds to Switzerland and creation of a trust and a few subsidiaries in the British Virgin Islands. The alleged instances of possession of properties in abroad was first investigated by the Income Tax Department.
Raninder Singh had earlier denied any wrongdoing. Filing its reply to the revision petitions filed by Punjab CM Amarinder Singh and his son, Raninder Singh, challenging the court order that allowed the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to inspect the fresh records in the three alleged tax evasion cases ongoing against them, the Income-Tax Department submitted in the Ludhiana court that the revision petitions filed by father-son duo should be ‘dismissed’. The matter is being heard by the court of Additional Sessions Judge Atul Kasana.
“…It is therefore prayed that the revision petition may kindly be ordered to be dismissed with costs…,” read the reply filed by the Income-Tax Department in the court through its counsel Rakesh K Gupta, while adding that the petitioner (Raninder Singh) had “no locus standi to file the revision petition” and it is “not maintainable in the present form”.
In an application submitted by the ED in Ludhiana court on August 14, the agency had pleaded that it was seeking permission for inspection of fresh records and documents filed by the I-T Department in three cases already ongoing against Capt Amarinder Singh and his son. The application which was filed on the behalf of Assistant Director, ED, said that the subject matter comes within the ambit of Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), 1999 and hence the agency is authorised to investigate the matter.
The investigation by ED in I-T records of Captain Amarinder and his son was already ongoing. In the fresh application, ED says that “to bring investigation to a logical end, the documents attached by the I-T department need to be examined”.
On September 18, the court of Judicial Magistrate Jasbeer Singh, allowing ED application, had given a go-ahead to the investigating agency to inspect fresh Income Tax records of Captain and his son. The court had allowed ED to conduct inspection on September 28. However, on September 25, the court of Additional District and Sessions Judge Atul Kasana, while admitting the revised petition filed by Raninder Singh under Section 397 of CrPC against the September 18 order, passed a fresh order staying the ED inspection in one case. Then on October 1, the same court stayed the ED inspection in two other cases as well, one each against Captain and Raninder. I-T department and ED were issued notices to file their replies.
In its reply filed in the court on Thursday, the I-T department has submitted that revised petitions filed by Amarinder Singh and Raninder Singh challenging ED inspection allowed by the lower court, should be “dismissed”.
“….The revised petition is not maintainable in the present form. The petition has no locus standi to file the present revised petition…No revision petition is maintainable against the interlocutory order. The order under challenge is an interlocutory order…It is therefore prayed that the revision petition may kindly be ordered to be dismissed with costs,” reads the reply filed by the I-T department.
I-T department counsel Rakesh K Gupta said, “We cannot comment whether the ED inspection of I-T records should be allowed or not. It is for the court to decide. But we have submitted in our reply that the revision petitions filed by Amarinder Singh and Raninder Singh should be dismissed.” Earlier on October 16, the ED in its reply had said that “it is an independent investigation agency and thus has the right to inspect the I-T cases of Amarinder Singh and Raninder Singh”. ED had also said that the petitioners have no legal right to file revision petitions in such cases as they have not been yet summoned by the trial court. The matter has now been adjourned for December 4, said Gurmukh Singh, counsel for
Raninder Singh. Meanwhile, three I-T tax evasion cases ongoing against Amarinder and Raninder are also scheduled for hearing shortly in the trial court of chief judicial magistrate PS Kaleka. A case against Captain is registered under Section 277 (false statement of verification) of the I-T Act, while two against Raninder are registered under Section 276-C (evasion of tax) and Section 277 of the I-T Act with I-T department being the complainant in the case.