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"... keeping in mind the extra-ordinary calamity that we are combating and for the ends of justice, I request the Income Tax Authorities to stay their hands with regard to distribution of jewellery."
The restricted functioning of the Court, necessitated by the Novel Coronavirus outbreak, recently led the Calcutta High Court to request the Income Tax Authorities to consider refraining from distributing of jewellery that was seized from a petitioner four decades ago, despite the non-appearance of any counsel for the Tax authorities.
As a precursor to the order, the Court also recounted the remarks made by former US President Barack Obama during the bird flu pandemic that: "When we think of the major threats to our national security, the first to come to mind are nuclear proliferation, rogue states and global terrorism. But another kind of threat lurks beyond our shores, one from nature, not human – an avian flu pandemic.”
The judge observed,
The order was passed by Justice Shekhar B Saraf, while also keeping in mind the resolution of the Bar Council of West Bengal prohibiting lawyers from participating in judicial proceedings.
The petitioner, appearing in person, had filed a writ petition in which he made a specific prayer seeking a writ of mandamus upon the Tax authorities to prevent the distribution of certain jewellery seized by them. It was further found that the petitioner has served notice upon the respondent authorities and filed affidavit of service evidencing the same.
However, given that the circumstances justifying the absence of counsel for the Income Tax authorities, the judge opined, "I am of the view that passing a writ of mandamus against the Income Tax Authorities would go against the notification issued by the Registrar General (on measures to decongest the Court to minimise the risk of viral transmission)."
All the same, the Court has urged the Income Tax authorities to consider the representation made by the petitioner against the distribution of the seized jewellery. The Judge said,
The Court added that the matter would be taken on priority at a later date this month.
"This matter shall be taken up on March 25, 2020 at the top under the heading ‘Motion’"
Calcutta High Court
The petitioner has also been directed to serve copies of the order passed by the Court to all the respondents within 24 hours.
[Read the order here]