Taxman sits on EC request for scrutiny of candidates returns
February, 25th 2014
As the Election Commission prepares to notify the general elections, a three-and-a-half-year-old issue that it has with the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) remains unresolved.
The EC wants the taxmen to match the statements of assets and liabilities filed by all candidates with their income tax returns. It first made the request before the 2010 Bihar assembly elections, and repeated it during all assembly elections that were held subsequently, but the CBDT failed to act.
Last June , following a meeting between tax and EC officials, it was decided to sort the affidavits of the candidates into categories and present the CBDT with the material in an easier-to-scrutinise format. A clutch of state elections have taken place since, but the taxmen are yet to get going.
At the heart of the logjam is disagreement over the volume of the work to be undertaken: the CBDT would like the EC to refer to it only selected affidavits, while the EC would like the CBDT to download all affidavits for scrutiny. On October 23, 2013, the CBDT wrote to the EC that its guidelines (on scrutiny) “may need suitable modification particularly with respect to verification of affidavits of contesting candidates”.
On January 3, 2014, the EC wrote back, stressing that the “verification of affidavits of contesting candidates may be done and reported to Commission within six months”. And that is where the matter stands.
Twenty one assembly polls and many byelections have been held since the EC issued its guidelines in 2010. 30,974 candidates have contested the assembly elections. All that the CBDT has found so far are 10 cases of wrong PAN in Bihar. No candidate has been punished for making a false declaration.
Documents accessed by The Indian Express under the Right to Information Act show that at a meeting held on June 3, 2013 and attended by P K Dash, DG (Expenditure) of the EC, and CBDT officials, a decision was taken to alter the instructions, categorising the affidavits for verification. These were: “specified cases received from ECI; cases witnessing phenomenal growth when the current affidavit is compared to that filed during the previous election; cases of winning candidates and the veracity of the affidavits compared to the returns of income, if any, filed by them; instances where there was no PAN but movable/immovable asset disclosed were in excess of Rs 5 crore; cases where addition of new immovable assets above a threshold of Rs 2 crore vis-a-vis last affidavit, if any, was witnessed”.
It was also decided that “ECI shall provide affidavits’s contents in a format that is amenable to proper analysis by the Income Tax Department”.