New Delhi/ Gangtok: Supreme Court Of India has directed that till such amendment is made to Section 10(26AAA) of the I.T. Act, 1961, all individuals domiciled in Sikkim up to 26 th April, 1975 shall be entitled to the exemption under the said provision from the current financial year i.e., 1st April, 2022 onwards.
This direction has been issued in exercise of powers under Article 142 of the Constitution by the apex Court so as to “eliminate discrimination and disparity in respect of the aforesaid category of Sikkimese, who subsequently have become citizens of India w.e.f. 26th April, 1975 and to save the Explanation from being rendered unconstitutional vis-à-vis such individuals who form a small percentage of Sikkimese and who are also entitled to such an exemption”.
The Supreme Court order passed by the Single Judge Bench of Justice B.V. Nagarathna on 13 January 2023 points out that this approach is being adopted rather than striking down the Explanation to Section 10(26AAA) of the I.T. Act, 1961 which would have the effect of withdrawing the benefit of exemption even from those categories of persons who are presently eligible for the same.
Under this clause, the income of Sikkimese woman marrying to non-sikkimese persons after 1 April 2008 is not entitled to exemption.
The Supreme Court order says until the amendment is made, the following clause shall be read as a part of the Explanation to Section 10(26AAA) of the I.T. Act, 1961, possibly as sub-clause (iv) thereof:
“(iv) any other individual, whose name does not appear in the Register of Sikkim Subjects but it is established that such individual was domiciled in Sikkim on or before 26th April, 1975.” This provision would extend the benefit of exemption to those individuals, domiciled in Sikkim on the day it merged with India, i.e., 26th April, 1975.
Sikkim Minister resigns from Cabinet
Sikkim Minister for Health and Family Welfare and Information Technology Dr Mani Kumar Sharma on Thursday 2 February 2023 took strong exception to the Supreme Court order and submitted his resignation from the Cabinet in protest.
A post now in circulation in social media is highly critical of the Sikkim Government for not raising any objection in Court against the petition by Association of Old Settlers of Sikkim. The petition claimed that Nepalese/Gorkha are foreigners. The post goes on to point out: “it is apprehended that there are some groups with their own vested interests and conspiracy also.. let us all be aware against this hidden agenda also”. Those protesting against the petition and its outcome in Supreme Court have stated that the Sikkim Minister’s resignation will help them to unite against Supreme Court judgement which brands the Indian Gorkha/ Nepali as immigrants or foreigners. We are here in India along with our own lands as per the 1816 Treaty of Sugauli with British India, they have asserted.