Court directs IT officials to return ₹5 cr. with 12% interest

Observing that seizure of ₹5 crore by Hyderabad Income Tax officials nearly 18 months ago from a private company employee was illegal, the Telangana High Court directed them to refund the money within four weeks.

The order was passed by a bench of Justices M.S. Ramachandra Rao and T. Amarnath Goud in two writ petitions, one filed by M/s Mectec and the other by its employee Vipul Kumar Patel.

The bench also directed the Director of Income Tax (Investigation) – Hyderabad and the Deputy Director of IT Unit-I (3) to pay an interest of 12% per year to the company from the date of seizure of the cash till date of refund of the money.

In an order passed a fortnight ago, the bench strongly deprecated the conduct of the IT Deputy Director noting that the document relating to cash seizure prepared by the officer was fabricated.

“Why the second respondent – IT Deputy Director-Hyderabad – should resort to fabricating this panchanama (Exhibit R-8) is obvious i.e., to make out a case for seizure and retention of cash illegally by giving a colour of legal validity,” the bench said.

The bench also remarked, “this document, in our opinion, is clearly a fabricated document of a search of an unknown/undisclosed place. We disbelieve that any such search was in fact conducted at all by the officer and her team to seize the cash.”

The petitioners contended that Hyderabad Police Commissioner’s Task Force Inspector (West) intercepted Vipul Kumar Patel’s car in Hyderabad on August 23, 2019 and seized ₹5 crore which was in his possession.

The TF Inspector later wrote a letter to IT officials in Hyderabad informing about the seizure of the cash. The IT Deputy Director and her team visited the TF office in Secunderabad and recorded sworn statements of Patel under Section 131 (A) of IT Act-1961. Since he could not explain source of the cash in his possession, a warrant under Section 132 of the IT Act was issued.

“Curiously, in the counter affidavits filed by IT officials, they do not give the date on which they took possession of the cash and how they got possession of it,” the bench remarked.

Whereas the TF Inspector, in his counter affidavit, stated that he had handed over Mr. Patel to IT officials on August 27, 2019.

The panchanama prepared by the IT officials about the seizure of the cash left the place of search blank.

“How there could be a warrant issued under section 132 by the Principal Director of Income Tax Hyderabad to IT Deputy Director without mentioning the place to be searched…”, the bench said.

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