Debate | Is the Income Tax Dept Being Politicised Before LS Polls?

Raids by I-T dept on premises of Opposition leaders and their aides has become the latest political flashpoint.

3 min read

Raids conducted by the Income Tax (I-T) department on the premises of Opposition leaders and their relatives has become the latest political flashpoint ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

In a fresh incident, the I-T Department seized Rs 45.4 lakh cash during a search at the residence of an aide of Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leader and outgoing MP from Guntur, Galla Jayadev on late Tuesday night, 9 April.

The I-T officials searched the residence of Gurappa Narasimha Naidu, cost accountant of Jayadev, who was one of the richest MPs in the outgoing Lok Sabha.

The I-T department has carried out raids on people linked to Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, a JD(S) minister in Karnataka, and a senior DMK leader in Tamil Nadu in the recent past.

The searches are linked to suspected movement of hawala money during the ongoing polls season and tax evasion.

The I-T Department had said in a statement on Wednesday that the search was conducted on the premises of Naidu after information was received on toll-free-number that cash was kept at his residence for use in the general election.

Dismissing the allegations of political vendetta levelled by the opposition parties, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday had said revenue department acts objectively and conducts search operations only on the basis of material evidence.

Is the I-T Dept Acting at Govt’s Behest?

What remains to be understood is whether the I-T dept acting at the behest of the government or are these raids by I-T department justified?

Talking to Bloomberg Quint, Former CBDT chairman BM Singh questioned the timing of these raids and if they are par for the course.

“There has to be a reason to believe before the search warrant and seizure is issued, but at this juncture when elections are round the corner, it does give an impression that the ruling party - the government is acting in a manner which is not entirely fair.”
BM Singh, former CBDT chairman

“They could have waited, if possible, for the elections to be over for conducting these raids. Maybe, they had information that they could not wait for the searches for any further period,” he said.

Publicising the raids, Singh said, is not prescribed under the section of Income Tax Act.

“Once the raid was conducted and searches were made, then they should have kept it under the wrap and not publicised it. Under section 138, information should not be given out unless it is sanctioned by a particular authority for public purpose,” Singh told Bloomberg Quint.

Political Vendetta or Convenient Coincidence for Govt?

Snubbing allegations of political power play, BJP spokesperson Tuhin Sinha said claims of vendetta politics can never justify corruption.

Citing the recent raids, Sinha said, “In the raids from Karnataka, money designated for financing mid-day meals scheme was being routed back to some engineers of PWD.”

Congress’ spokesperson Vinayak Dalmia termed the raids as convenient coincidence and said, “In the last six months leading up to of elections and only in the Opposition do you find this corruption and only now do you want to raid them when you had five years.”

“We are not worried. The BJP is an incompetent government they have not been to do anything for the last five years, what more will they do in the last five weeks of their term. These are just cheap stunts, I would not even call this political vendetta because they’re just cheap stunts,” Vinayak told Bloomberg Quint.

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