The Government’s claims and credibility on fighting black money, The Indian Express revealed this morning, received a serious jolt on November 10, barely two days after the Prime Minister’s historic announcement scrapping 86% of the currency in circulation. That was the day when the Income Tax Settlement Commission hurriedly passed a final order in the ‘Sahara papers’ on which the opposition has been demanding an inquiry and Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi has been asking the PM to reply to corruption charges.
Curiously a petition was filed before the Supreme Court on November 15 by the NGO Common Cause seeking a court-monitored inquiry by a Special Investigating Team (SIT) to prevent the ITSC from absolving Sahara. The apex court has listed the case for final hearing on January 11. But The Indian Express report now reveals that the Government had already absolved the Group—a fact which was neither disclosed to the court nor in Parliament or public.
- The Income Tax Settlement Commission admits that it had earlier rejected the application of the company
- It also states that the application was re-admitted on September 5, 2016
- This is one of the speediest disposals by the Commission, which normally takes 12-18 months to decide on applications
- There were just three hearings before the Commission accepted the Group’s contention and came out with its final order on November 10
- The Commission also went against the department’s Investigation wing which wanted to add Rs 2,700 crore to Sahara’s unaccounted income
- But the Commission says reconciliation was carried out and a sum of Rs 1,217 crore was agreed as Sahara’s unaccounted income
- The Commission, thereafter, fixed Sahara’s tax liability at Rs 137 crore and allowed the company to pay it in 12 instalments in view of the difficulties it has been going through
Far more importantly, the Commission accepted the company’s contention that the papers seized from its premises in November, 2014 during Income Tax raids were “dumb papers” with no evidentiary value.
“An employee and a friend of his got together to implicate and malign the image of another employee who was the head of the department of the office of the Sahara Group…the duo thought they were being ill-treated by him and he made them work for long and odd hours which in turn was affecting their family life and for various other personal reasons…”, the company pleaded before the Commission which accepted it.
The Indian Express report can be read here.