The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) today told the Supreme Court that there has been a substantial hike in the assets of seven Lok Sabha MPs and 98 MLAs across the country and “discrepancies” have been found. The CBDT said it would further probe the issue and place before the apex court in a sealed cover the relevant documents relating to the assets of these lawmakers. It also said that the names of these politicians cannot be revealed and would be given to the court in a sealed cover for its perusal.
The tax department said they have probed the allegations by an NGO, which has sought disclosure of the sources of income by the candidates contesting elections when they file nomination for polls, regarding alleged increase in assets of 26 Lok Sabha and 11 Rajya Sabha MPs and 257 MLAs. In an affidavit filed in the apex court, CBDT has said that election affidavits filed by these politicians as per the list given by the NGO, Lok Prahari, have been examined and discrepancies have been found in the cases of seven Lok Sabha MPs and 98 MLAs.
It said the income tax department has inquired into these allegations and “have prima facie found” that there was huge increase of assets in case of these lawmakers and the matter would be probed further. However, the board said verification report by the Director General of Income Tax (Investigation) regarding the affidavits filed by these politicians cannot be provided under the Right to Information (RTI) Act and would be filed in the court in a sealed cover for the perusual of the bench.
The CBDT’s affidavit has been filed as the apex court had on September 6 taken strong exception to Centre’s “attitude” of not disclosing information on action taken by it against politicians, some of whose assets have seen a massive jump between two elections. A bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar had directed the government to place the necessary information in this regard before the court.
In its affidavit, the CBDT has said that “the election affidavits filed by the candidates are self disclosed documents which are available in public domain”. “As per an arrangement between CBDT and Election Commission of India (ECI), verification of affidavits of the the candidates is undertaken as per provisions of Income Tax Act, 1961,” it said.
“Given that revenue augmentation is the primary concern of the IT department and since increasingly the department is Graduating towards non-intrusive methods, the verification of election affidavits is carried out in respect of specific category of such cases as per agreed parameter between ECI and CBDT,” it said.
The board further said that verification of affidavits were carried out in accordance with provisions of the IT Act.
“If the verification by the investigation directorate leads to a conclusion that based on the comparison of the information contained in the affidavit, with the return of the income, … and any further enquiries carried out, there is a case for assessment of income that escaped taxation, the matter is referred to the jurisdictional assessing officer who may proceed to pass an assessment order to assess or re-assess the income as per the provisions of the IT Act,” it said.
The apex court had on September 6 observed that though the government was saying that it was not averse to electoral reforms, it has not placed the necessary details. Even the information furnished before it in an affidavit by the CBDT was “not complete”, it had added. It had asked the government to file a detailed affidavit before it in this regard by September 12. The apex court had earlier issued notices to the Centre and the Election Commission on the plea filed by the NGO through its chief S N Shukla seeking inclusion of a column in the nomination form seeking details of the sources of income. The plea has claimed that the candidates while filing their nomination papers were disclosing their assets, assets of their spouse, children and other dependents, but they do not reveal the sources of income.