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Income - Tax dept seeks former SEBI chairman CB Bhaves tax returns details
May, 16th 2011

Weeks after stepping down as chairman of capital market regulator Sebi, CB Bhave has been asked by the Income-Tax Department to provide details of his tax returns prior to taking up the assignment, raising concerns about the timing and the government's motive.

"The queries are about tax returns," said a person familiar with the matter. The person declined to divulge more information or what prompted the tax authorities to seek details of past filings years later.

The tax authorities are also examining the veracity of complaints against two current Sebi board members, an official in the I-T Department said.

This probe is not related to the communication sent to Bhave. The action is bound to be perceived by some as targeting Bhave whose relationship with some officials of the finance ministry is widely believed to have been rocky. The ministry told Sebi to examine anonymous complaints against some of the full-time members of the Sebi board.

Bhave, a civil servant, was the Sebi chairman between early 2008 and February 17 this year.

The tax department has the legal right to ask questions relating to tax filings on the basis of third-party information or on a anonymous complaint. But, anonymous complaints are acted upon by the department only if is it verifiable.

The last stages of Bhave's three-year tenure was marked by controversy. Bhave was not granted a five-year term in office even though the government had initially approved a two-year extension.

In 2010, Bhave and the chief of the insurance regulator Irda were involved in a turf war over the regulation of Ulips, an insurance product with a substantial exposure to stock markets. The government decided in favour of Irda by passing a legislation that reaffirmed its authority. Bhave who is known for his integrity had also angered the mutual fund industry after Sebi abolished entry charges for investors.

Bhave's Final Years Controversial

The Central Vigilance Commission - a body set up by an Act of Parliament that oversees police units such as the CBI - does not ordinarily encourage anonymous complaints against officials and action based on such complaints.

The last stage of Bhave's three-year tenure was marked by controversy. Bhave was not granted a five-year term in office - in which case he would have left in 2013 - even though the government had initially approved a two-year extension.

Bhave had consented to a fresh two-year term but the proposal to grant an extension was first put forward and then withdrawn by the finance ministry in 2009. Later, in 2010, Bhave and the chief of Insurance Regulatory & Development Authority (Irda) were involved in a turf war over the regulation of unit-linked insurance plans (Ulips), an insurance product with a substantial exposure to stock markets.

The government decided in favour of Irda by passing a legislation that reaffirmed its authority. During his tenure Sebi rejected a proposal from MCX-SX to set up a new stock exchange. MCX-SX has challenged the decision in Bombay High Court. Bhave, who is known for his integrity, had also angered the mutual fund industry after Sebi abolished entry charges for investors.

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