A judge of the Madras High Court on Monday recused herself from hearing a plea of Congress Member of Parliament Karti Chidambaram, son of party leader P Chidambaram, and his wife in connection with a case of alleged income tax evasion while another declined to entertain it.
When the plea against framing of charges in the tax case against Karti and his wife Srinidhi came up before Justice Anita Sumanth, counsels for the tax department said documents seized from Advantage Strategic Pvt. Ltd. was the basis for the cases.
They submitted that since she had represented the company when she was an advocate, it would not be appropriate for her to hear the petition. Senior advocate KTS Tulsi, representing the petitioners pleaded that the court should at least adjourn the matter till Jan. 20 with an interim injunction against the special court from framing charges.
However, concurring with the submission of counsels for the tax department, the judge recused herself from hearing the matter. When the senior counsel made an urgent mention before Justice P Rajamanickam, the judge wondered how he could hear the plea since he was not the portfolio judge.
To this, senior counsel Nalini Chidambaram, mother of Karti, submitted they made a representation before the Chief Justice of India who had, in turn, directed the registry to list the matter before him. However, Justice Rajamanickam sought to know where the order by the CJI is, saying he cannot entertain the plea without the order.
“I was not aware of the facts of the case,” the judge added. Counsels for the tax department raised several objections to the court hearing the matter. They contended that the crime numbers mentioned by the petitioners were incorrect and must be rectified.
Also, the cases were not pending before the chief metropolitan magistrate court in Egmore as submitted by the petitioners. They are pending before the special court for cases against MPs and MLAs, the counsels said. Justice Rajamanickam then said the counsels for the department were raising several objections which need to be addressed.
The counsels for the petitioners once again made a mention before the Chief Justice later seeking an urgent hearing on Monday, a day before the special court is scheduled to hear the matter.
Noting that he cannot make a decision without going into any note or order passed by Justice Rajamanickam, the Chief Justice asked the counsels to make a representation to the registrar (judicial) who would, in turn, forward the same to the office of the Chief Justice for appropriate orders.
The case before the special court related to a complaint filed by the deputy director of income tax Investigation, Chennai, before an economic offences court here on Sept. 12, 2018, for offences under the Income Tax act.
The case was later transferred to the special court. During the hearing, the I-T department submitted that Karti received Rs 6.38 crore in cash while his wife received Rs 1.35 crore in cash for the sale of land near Muttukadu. It has been alleged that the Karti’s mother Nalini Chidambaram received the payment in the form of cheque while their son and his wife received cash.
On Jan. 7, the special court had dismissed a discharge petition filed by Karti and his wife and ordered the prosecution to go ahead with the framing of charges and ordered both the accused to be present in the court on Jan. 21.