HC defers hearing of I-T plea over unfreezing Nokia's assets

The Delhi High Court today deferred to 20 January hearing of the income tax department's plea for "directions/clarifications" on the 12 December order by which the assets of Finnish mobile phone handset maker Nokia in India were unfrozen.

The same bench headed by Justice Sanjiv Khanna which by its 12 December order had paved the way for the sale of mobile company to Microsoft subject to certain conditions raised certain technical and procedural infirmities in taking up the plea of I-T department.

"As the roster has changed, you (I-T department) need to get one of the applications referred to us by a judicial order of the bench which is presently dealing with tax matters," Justice Khanna said. Now, the I-T department on Monday would move to a bench headed by Justice S Ravindra Bhat for an order to transfer the plea to the original court.

The court had ordered unfreezing of Nokia's assets in India with certain conditions, including that Nokia India will deposit a minimum of Rs2,250 crore in an escrow account while its parent company Nokia Corp would be liable to pay the tax dues as applicable under the Income Tax Act up to maximum of Rs3,500 crore (See:Delhi HC unfreezes Nokia's Chennai plant).

Seeking modifications in the order, the I-T department in its fresh application had said "in the conditions imposed by the High Court ... the situs of amount of Rs3,500 crore and the realisation thereof is not stated/directed.

"It is requested, for the sake of clarity, to issue necessary directions for placing the aforesaid amount also in an escrow account preferably in India. The IT department also very humbly seeks directions/clarification for payment of the said amount of Rs3,500 crore as and when the demand is raised and is due for payment," its counsel said.