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Law ministry tells Income tax dept, Quiz Lalit Modi over video
January, 01st 2011

In a controversial response that may be perceived as taking the side of an accused, the law ministry has asked the Income Tax (I-T) authorities to question former Indian Premier League (IPL) commissioner Lalit Modi over video conferencing and not to insist on his deportation from London, where he is currently holed up.

Both the I-T and Enforcement Directorate had been seeking Modi's deportation, and the agencies had also moved through the ministry of external affairs (MEA) a few months ago to seek his extradition from the UK.

In November, Central Board of  Direct Taxes (CBDT), which is in correspondence with the law ministry, had sought the latter's opinion on what "evidentiary value" the testimony of an accused taken on foreign land would have in India. The department had also simultaneously written to MEA seeking its opinion on whether the UK government would have any objection if the I-T sleuths interrogated an accused on its land.

MEA, too, has responded to the CBDT query asking the department to send a written questionnaire to Lalit Modi and seek his response over mail, sources said.

However, CBDT doesn't seem to be amused. Sources said CBDT member of investigation Sudhir Chandra, who took charge as the new chairman of CBDT from Friday, called a meeting of senior officials and instructed them to send another missive to the two ministries telling them to respond specifically to the query put to them rather than whether the department officials should go to the UK or not.

A tough-talking Chandra is in favour of getting Modi deported from London like the ED, which had earlier issued a blue corner notice against the beleaguered IPL czar seeking his detention on sight after he failed to respond to repeated summons sent by the agency.

Both ED and Income Tax Investigation want to interrogate the former IPL commissioner in connection with money laundering allegations against him and some of his close relatives in running the cricket league.

The law ministry has justified Modi's questioning through video-conferencing, stating that this would save precious money for the government and the evidence is also admissible in the court.

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