The Income Tax Department on Thursday told Madras High Court that it had seized “enormous material” indicating that former Health Minister C. Vijayabaskar of the AIADMK had received huge amounts of money from gutkha/pan masala manufacturers and SRS Mining owned by J. Sekar Reddy and two others.
The counter-affidavit was filed before Justice Anita Sumanth hearing a writ petition filed by the former Minister. He has challenged the attachment of 117.46 acres of his land in Pudukottai district, besides the freezing of four of his bank accounts, including the one in which he receives his MLA salary, in order to recover ₹206.42 crore in tax dues, excluding interest.
After perusing the counter-affidavit submitted by senior standing counsel A.P. Srinivas, the judge granted time for Nithyaesh Natraj, counsel for the petitioner, to file a rejoinder on behalf of his client. She directed the High Court Registry to list the matter on December 12 for completing the written pleadings and commencing oral arguments.
In the counter, Tax Recovery Officer Kumar Deepak Raj said the search and seizure operations were carried out on the premises related to the writ petitioner in April 2017 and material was collected to prove that he had indulged in tax evasion by claiming excess quarry expenses and unaccounted-for sale of blue metals through his firm Rasi Blue Metals.
The seizures also showed that Mr. Vijayabaskar had received ₹85.45 crore from SRS Mining and ₹2.45 crore from gutkha/pan masala manufacturers. He had also spent ₹30.90 lakh from undisclosed sources for the accommodation of AIADMK MLAs at a resort at Koovathur when Edappadi K. Palaniswami was sworn in as the Chief Minister in February 2017.
Further, the search operations led to the unearthing of the fact that the former Minister had earned several crores of rupees through excess quarrying than the permissible limit and had not disclosed that income while filing his returns for various financial years between 2012-13 and 2018-19. Hence, the Department had passed fresh assessment orders for those years.
The petitioner had approached the Income Tax Settlement Commission multiple times but his applications were rejected on the ground that he had not made a full and fair disclosure. Thereafter, he preferred appeals before the Commissioner of Income Tax (Appeals) for certain assessment years, and they were pending.
In the interregnum, the Tax Recovery Officer requested the petitioner to pay only 20% of the outstanding amount for the assessment years 2012-13 to 2014-15. However, since he did not choose to pay any amount even after he was given multiple opportunities, the Department had to attach his properties and freeze his bank accounts to recover the dues.
The officer also informed the court that the account maintained by the writ petitioner at the Indian Bank branch in the MLA’s hostel at Omandurar Government Estate in Chennai was a savings account in which his salary for being an MLA of the Viralimalai constituency gets credited, and not an exclusive salary account as such.
Mr. Raj said ₹8.50 lakh had been credited into that account by the Tamil Nadu government in the financial year 2022-23 and the petitioner had drawn money from it only for his personal expenditure and not for any expenses related to his constituency as it had been projected before court.