The Supreme Court was informed by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) on Monday, 11 September that it had found discrepancies between the incomes and assets of several MLAs and MPs after verification of their election affidavits.
While referring to assets declared in election affidavits by seven Lok Sabha members and 98 MLAs, CBDT has said, “Verification prima facie with known sources of income has indicated disparity and, therefore, these are taken up for further investigation which may include reference to the assessing officer for making assessment,” as reported by The Times Of India.
A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed in 2015 by a Lucknow-based NGO named ‘Lok Prahari’, which had submitted a list of 11 Rajya Sabha MPs and 257 MLAs, and 26 Lok Sabha MPs to the tax department seeking verification of their election affidavits while alleging substantial increases in their assets compared to the asset details given by them in previous election affidavits.
The NGO had demanded earlier that their income growth should be scrutinised and alleged in the Supreme Court that the CBDT was taking no action on the information which was given to the department. This report triggered an inquiry by the Income Tax department.
“Given that revenue augmentation is the primary concern of the income tax 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 parameters between CBDT and Election Commission,” said CBDT while explaining its role in verification of election affidavits.
The Indian Express reports that the CBDT affidavit, however, does not mention the names of the legislators in whose cases the discrepancies were noted. It said that all the names would be placed before the court in a sealed cover.
On 6 September, the Supreme Court while hearing the case asked CBDT to file a fresh case as it termed an earlier affidavit filed by the department as incomplete. The Court had though allowed it to submit the names in a sealed cover if they could not be made public. It had examined that although the government’s stand was that it was not against electoral reforms, necessary details were not submitted to support the claim.
The CBDT said the information could not be disclosed or shared in public as it enjoyed immunity under the Right To Information Act.
It said, “It is humbly submitted that Directors General of Income Tax (Investigation) are exempt under Section 24 read with Schedule 11 of the Right to Information Act,2005 (RTI).”
It further added, “Therefore, that the reports of verification of affidavits of the candidates by the Directors General of Income Tax (Investigation) cannot be provided under the RTI Act. It is also pertinent to note here the statutory restrictions under Section 138 of the Income Tax Act.”