The authorities is weighing its legal options after dropping the high-profile worldwide tax arbitration case towards Vodafone because it appears to restrict damages not simply in this matter but additionally in case of a separate lawsuit with Cairn Energy goes towards it.
Last month, a global arbitration court docket dominated that the Indian authorities in search of ₹22,100 crore in taxes from telecom big Vodafone utilizing retrospective laws was in “breach of the guarantee of fair and equitable treatment” assured underneath the bilateral funding safety pact between India and the Netherlands.
Finance Ministry sources mentioned the federal government will determine on difficult the award earlier than a court docket in Singapore – which was the seat of the arbitration, after taking legal opinion.
While the associated fee implication in the case is proscribed to having to pay ₹85 crore to Vodafone in legal price, what’s weighing on the federal government thoughts is a separate arbitration involving UK’s Cairn Energy plc.
If a separate arbitration panel had been to carry a requirement for ₹10,247 crore in taxes utilizing the identical retrospective laws as unlawful, the federal government must pay Cairn as a lot as USD 1.5 billion ( ₹11,000 crore).
This is the quantity equal to the worth of shares of Cairn that the federal government had bought to get better part of the tax demand. It additionally contains the dividends and tax refund seized.
Sources mentioned Vodafone International Holding (a Netherland firm) had in February 2007 purchased 100 per cent shares of Cayman Island-based firm CGP Investments for USD 11.1 billion to not directly get 67 per cent management of Hutchison Essar Ltd – an Indian firm.
The Tax Department felt the deal was designed to keep away from capital acquire tax in India and so imposed a tax demand, which was rejected by the Supreme Court in 2012.
To cease abuse and plug the loophole of such oblique switch of Indian property, the federal government in 2012 amended the legislation to make such transfers taxable in India, they mentioned including Vodafone was slapped with a contemporary demand which the agency contested by way of worldwide arbitration.
The tax demand on Cairn Energy, they mentioned, is totally different because it pertains to alleged capital features the agency made on switch of Indian property to a brand new firm and itemizing it on bourses.
Dheeraj Nair, Partner, J Sagar Associates, mentioned the federal government “should challenge the (Vodafone) award since this award will have persuasive value in other treaty arbitrations which concern the retrospective tax measures”.
“Any party dissatisfied with the award has a right to challenge it, therefore such challenge is justified,” he mentioned.
Sonam Chandwani, Managing Partner at KS Legal & Associates, nonetheless, mentioned “as the Permanent Court of Arbitration situated in The Hague had passed the award in favour of Vodafone, there lies no further authority for putting up appeal”.
“The government can only go back to the Permanent Court of Arbitration on some technical point, but that will not serve any purpose,” she mentioned.
Since the Indian Arbitration Act obliges the federal government to implement a overseas tribunal award, Vodafone can ask for a similar in case the award was challenged in Indian courts, she mentioned.
“However, in the present scenario, since all the property, both tangible and non-tangible of Vodafone, lies outside India it will be difficult for the government to procure the same,” she mentioned.
She mentioned in the case of Cairn Energy, India in order to acquire the retrospective taxes has already expropriated all their funding.
“In circumstances such as when the Permanent Court of Arbitration gives a decree in favour of Cairn, the government of India still has the option to procure the desired retrospective taxes via grounds such that taxation is not covered under any bilateral investment protection treaty and as such cannot be arbitrated. It is challenging the jurisdiction of such panels to adjudicate on a tax matter,” she mentioned.
Nair mentioned the federal government definitely has the choice to not attraction in Vodafone however accomplish that in the case of Cairn as every case is unbiased and introduced underneath a unique treaty, which provides totally different protections.
Cairn’s declare is underneath the India-UK treaty whereas Vodafone’s declare was underneath the India-Netherlands treaty.
While Nair mentioned there wouldn’t be any further unfavorable affect on investor sentiment as they recognise these problem proceedings are a part of the norm, Chandwani mentioned interesting towards a global arbitration award will disincentivise the buyers.
“Any investor will start contemplating on investing in such countries as any dispute arises the government of such countries might not comply with the international order, putting the investors to losses. It creates hindrance in the ease of doing business in such countries and thus discourages them to make any investments to indulge in any form of funding,” she mentioned.