Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday hinted that the government intends to appeal against an arbitration panel’s order asking India to pay over $1.4 billion to UK’s Cairn Energy in a tax dispute. “Where I find arbitration award questioning India’s sovereign authority to tax…if there is a question about the sovereign right to tax…it’s my duty to appeal,” she added.
Last year, the government lost two high-profile arbitrations over the levy of taxes on British firms, using legislation that gave it the power to levy taxes with retrospective effect.
While the government has already challenged in a Singapore court an international arbitration tribunal verdict that overturned its demand for Rs 22,100 crore in back taxes from Vodafone Group Plc, it hasn’t yet done so against a December 21 award asking India to return the value of shares seized and sold, divided, confiscated and tax refund stopped to adjust a Rs 10,247 crore tax demand on Cairn.
“We have made our position clear on retrospective taxation. We have repeated it in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019, 2020, till now. I don’t see any lack of clarity,” she said, referring to the Modi government’s stand of not raising any new tax demand using the 2012 legislation.
“Where I find arbitration award questioning India’s sovereign authority to tax… if there is a question about the sovereign right to tax, I will appeal, it’s my duty to appeal,” she said. “An arbitration award, which questions the authority of government to tax, I will appeal on that.”
She did not make any direct reference to appealing against the Cairn award.