When the Income Tax department suspects any person or a business establishment to have hoarded illegal money, it conducts search and survey operations. This action of IT officers is also called a raid. It has been seen that just ahead of the election or during the poll season, there is a surge in Incomes Tax raids. Suddenly, the officers of the Income Tax Department have come into action. It does not mean that the department conducts no search and survey operations rest of time at all. However, when we compare the graphs of raids conducted in the poll season and normal period, we find that there is a sharp rise in the graph of election season. The parliamentary elections of 2019 are no exception.
In wee hours of Sunday, a team of about 300 officers of Income Tax launched raids on at least 50 places in Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, and Goa against people related to the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh. The large-scale searches have come at a time when national elections are just four days away. Prior to this, the last month Income Tax raids had raised a political storm in Karnataka. Simultaneous searches were conducted at several locations, covering houses and establishments belonging to relatives and associates of JD(S) leaders. Whatever may be the rationale for the Income Tax department’s action, but its timing has certainly raised some serious questions.
The Congress and the JD(S), partners in the ruling coalition in the state, are crying foul, pointing fingers at the Centre and accusing it of using the central agency to target political rivals. It is a charge that has surfaced again and again. The Income Tax department most likely had its reasons for carrying out such raids at this juncture. However, the fact that only people linked to the Janata Dal (S) leadership were brought under scrutiny does add strength to the argument that there could be more to the raids. The Congress and the JD(S) held a joint protest at the Income Tax regional headquarters in Bengaluru. Even Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy also participated in this protest.
In the month of March, an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) lawmaker had been detained by Income Tax department officials for questioning after their team surveying a builder in New Delhi found over Rs 2 crore cash allegedly linked to the legislator and his associates. According to the Income Tax department officials, Uttam Nagar lawmaker Naresh Balyan, a property dealer and two others were being questioned by the officials in Dwarka to determine if the recovered cash was illegal and unaccounted.
Just before the assembly elections in five states Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, and Mizoram last year, the Income Tax department officials raided properties of AAP leader and Transport Minister of Delhi Kailash Gahlot. The Income Tax department officials claimed that Kailash Gahlot had evaded tax worth Rs 120 crore. A senior officer said that we have also detected several benami properties in the names of employees and a huge piece of land in the name of a driver. There is also evidence of Gahlot’s investment in a property in Dubai. Kailash Gahlot, who holds the portfolios of transport, law, revenue, information technology, and administrative reforms in the Delhi government, denied all claims of tax evasion. He called the raids a deliberate act of spreading disinformation at the behest of the Central government with a view to cover up the abysmal failure of the Income Tax department.
According to Kailash Gahlot, the Income Tax officers searched Gahlot’s flat for around 60 hours but could only recover Rs 11 lakh, the amount which has been duly accounted for in his books. Another sum of Rs 24 lakh was admittedly related to the family of Gahlot’s elder brother.
Similarly, every time political leaders or persons closed to these leaders claim that they are innocent and the Income Tax raid was conducted at the behest of the central government. While the Income Tax officers say that this is part of their routine work, we cannot set aside the allegations of the opposition leaders. At the same time, we cannot give them a clean-chit. Introspection about Income Tax searches is necessary as these allegations belittle the image of Income Tax department and the Indian government.
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