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HC defreezes Nokia’s India assets, paves way for sale to Microsoft

The court, however, imposed certain conditions on Nokia India and its parent firm Nokia Corporation Finland.

Nokia had pleaded before the high court for a direction to the Income Tax department for lifting of the stay on transfer of assets, including the Chennai manufacturing plant, in view of its $7.2 billion global deal with Microsoft.

A bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna and Sanjeev Sachdeva said ‘we permit and allow sale of assets by Nokia India to Microsoft/Microsoft International.’

The bench at the same time asked Nokia India and Nokia Corporation(Corp) to fulfil certain conditions.

‘Nokia Finland will be bound by the statement that they shall be jointly liable and shall pay tax demand determined and payable under Section 201/201(1A), interest and penalty thereon.’

‘Nokia Finland shall be liable to pay taxes including penalty and interest due and payable by them as determined under the Income Tax Act,’ the bench said.

Directing Nokia to deposit a minimum of Rs 2,250 crore in an escrow account, the court said ‘details of which will be furnished to the I-T department within one month of the agreement with Microsoft/ Microsoft International.

‘The amount of deposit will go up or increase upon higher consideration being received from Microsoft as per valuation report.’

The court also clarified saying ‘Rs 2250 crore or the higher amount, which will be deposited in the escrow account, at the option of the respondents may not be adjusted or appropriated against tax demands including interest and penalty relating to TDS/order under Section 201/201(1A) or tax demands determined and payable by Nokia Finland....’

The court further said that in case of an adverse assessment or re-assessment order or tax demand being created against Nokia India under I-T Act, the demand will be paid from the escrow account.

‘... subject to stay order, if any, against recovery of the said demand from appellate authority or Indian courts and in case Nokia India pays any amount, or is appropriated from the escrow account, and Nokia India subsequently succeeds, the amount will be refunded with interest in accordance with the provisions of the Act.

‘Interest earned on the escrow account will be also included in the amount payable,’ the bench said.

The court asked Nokia Corp to give an undertaking to the department which the bench will treat
as a guarantee to it.
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