AB Pandey and Central Board of Direct Taxes (
told the Election Commission of India in discussions on Tuesday that the income tax department was not targeting any political party and that its actions were based on specific intelligence, said people aware of the matter. They also told the poll body that it can be informed of such matters only after the findings of searches are substantiated.
The Department of Revenue had separately assured the commission on Tuesday that raids and seizures of cash meant to illicitly influence polling were not politically motivated. The Congress had said that it was being targeted by the government agencies.
‘ASK FIELD OFFICERS TO TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION’
The revenue department had also asked the commission to inform its field officers that immediate action should be taken to enforce the model code of conduct and “eliminate the use of unaccounted money in elections”.
This follows the commission having “strongly advised” the finance ministry to ensure that its agencies were “absolutely neutral, impartial and non-discriminatory” while cracking down on such funds. The revenue department, part of the finance ministry, said its actions were impartial in a letter to the commission.
“The department fully agrees with the observation that there is a need to conduct operations ruthlessly to contain this malpractice… We understand the words ‘neutral’, ‘impartial’ and ‘non-discriminatory’ mean that we must act as and when information is available against anyone, irrespective of political affiliation,” it said. “This is precisely the practice that the department follows and will continue to do so.”
The Election Commission had called a meeting with the CBDT chairman and the revenue secretary to discuss the matter. This followed raids that uncovered a “widespread and well-organised racket” involving funds to the tune of Rs 281crore linked to a political party, according to the income tax department. That had sparked accusations of intimidation by the opposition Congress party.
“Since it is the responsibility of the Election Commission as also of the revenue agencies to check and eventually eliminate the use of unaccounted money in election, we would also like to urge the Election Commission to advise its field officers involved in the enforcement of the model code of conduct to take immediate enforcement action at their end under the election and appropriate laws, if they come across any specific information about use of illicit money in electoral processes,” said the letter signed by Arvind Saran, deputy secretary, department of revenue, said.
The revenue department said operations are carried out only after information and actionable intelligence are available with the income tax authorities. Several of those raided since Sunday were linked to Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath, who said the exercise was aimed at intimidation.
ET reported on Tuesday that the income tax department had questioned the chief accountant of Congress and that senior functionaries of the party may also be summoned.
The Congress party had complained to the Election Commission following the searches. The CBDT had said late on Monday evening that about Rs 20 crore of the sums uncovered had been transferred to a political party. The elections are being held in seven phases from April11to May 19, with counting on May 23.