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Congress says fresh income-tax department notices of over Rs 1,800 crore slapped on it, left parties get notices too

NEW DELHI: The Congress Friday said it has received fresh notices from the income-tax department, asking it to pay around Rs 1,823 crore even as it accused the BJP of ”serious violations” of income-tax laws for which it should be penalised to the tune of Rs 4,600 crore.

The left parties – CPI and CPI-M – were also caught up in similar tax nets with the CPI saying it has received a notice from Income Tax department for using an old PAN card and the CPI-M slapped with a tax recovery notice of Rs 15.59 crore for not declaring a bank account in its tax returns for 2016-17.

With campaigning for Lok Sabha polls picking up, the Congress also accused the ruling BJP of indulging in ”tax terrorism” to financially cripple the opposition party and alleged that democracy was ”under threat” in the BJP government.

Citing examples, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said the I-T department has now given a notice to the Congress for a total amount of Rs 1,823 crore and already withdrawn Rs 135 crore from the party’s accounts, which were funds collected by the party through crowdsourcing.

The left parties – CPI and CPI-M were also caught up in similar tax nets with the CPI saying it has received a notice from Income Tax department for using an old PAN card and the CPI-M slapped with a tax recovery notice of Rs 15.59 crore for not declaring a bank account in its tax returns for 2016-17.

All the parties are now seeking legal recourse and the Congress saying that its case is slated to be heard in the Supreme Court on April 1.

Addressing a press conference at the AICC headquarters here along with Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh and party treasurer Ajay Maken alleged that the BJP is in serious violation of income-tax laws and said the I-T department should raise a demand of Rs 4,617.58 crore from the saffron party for such violations.

Maken said political parties have to fill up a proforma of Form 24A, in which two basic and important pieces of information have to be furnished — the names and addresses of their donors.

”We have analysed all the submissions of the BJP to the Election Commission (EC). The party has faltered every year,” Maken claimed, alleging that the tax authorities are targeting only the principal opposition party and not the BJP for similar violations.

He also claimed that he is contemplating of filing a public interest litigation (PIL) in the court against the alleged ”favouritism” of I-T authorities towards the BJP, on which the tax department should slap a fine of Rs 4600 crore for violations on similar grounds as imposed on the Congress.

Kharge accused the BJP-led Centre of misusing institutions like the income-tax department, ED and CBI to subvert democracy and belittle the Constitution, and asked why is the I-T department being used as a weapon to harass the principal opposition party.

He asserted that such actions would not deter the Congress from contesting the upcoming Lok Sabha polls and vowed that his party will free the country’s institutions from the BJP’s ”dictatorship”.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi accused the BJP of indulging in ”tax terrorism” by misusing probe agencies and warned it, saying when the government changes, such exemplary action will be taken that no one will dare to do such things again.

”When the government changes, action will definitely be taken against those who have disrobed democracy. And such exemplary action will be taken that no one will dare to do all this again. This is my guarantee,” Gandhi said in his post in Hindi on X. In a video of March 15, Gandhi is heard seen warning the probe agencies against such exemplary action that no one will dare such things again.

Ramesh alleged that through the ”electoral bonds scam”, the BJP has collected Rs 8,200 crore and used the route of ”pre-paid, post-paid, post-raid bribes and shell companies”. On the other hand, the BJP is engaged in ”tax terrorism”, he alleged.

”Efforts are being made to financially cripple the Congress, but we are not going to be cowed down,” Ramesh said.

Maken alleged that the Congress and other like-minded opposition parties are being selectively targeted by the I-T department, which he described as the BJP’s ”frontal organisation”.

He said the Supreme Court will soon hear the Congress’s plea on the I-T department’s demands from it and their case is slated to be heard on April 1.

Maken also claimed that they have analysed last seven years of accounts submitted by the BJP, particularly 2017-2018 when total donations without any address were Rs 42 crore for the BJP and for the same year the Congress was penalised just for Rs 14 lakh which 23 of our leaders had donated in cash.

”So, now what we are saying is that there should be a level-playing field…This action was designed to choke the Congress financially and prevent, stop, delay and disable any election-related expenditure by the party on advertisements, travel, salaries, agencies etc. It is indeed appalling that the financial years assessed go back to 1993-94, when the late Sitaram Kesri was the party’s treasurer,” he said.

”These orders are based on manufactured and planted diaries and so-called raids by the BJP’s frontal organisation on third parties. Several of these raided third parties enjoy stay orders from courts based on vitiated search procedures by I-T department,” Maken claimed, adding that the same interim relief is not being granted to the Congress.

In the history of India, why is the Congress, a tax-exempt political party like others, being ”forced” to pay income tax during the 2024 Lok Sabha election, he asked.

”Why is the EC — the guarantor of free-and-fair elections — a mute spectator? Is this not an obvious, brazen, blatant and shameful attempt by the BJP to illegally financially cripple the opposition? Where is the level-playing field in Indian elections? Can 2024 be called a free-and-fair election anymore?” Maken asked.

Citing details, Kharge said a penalty of Rs 54 crore has been imposed by the I-T authorities for the year 1993-94, Rs 182 crore for 2016-17, Rs 179 crore for 2017-18, Rs 918 crore for 2018-19 and Rs 480 crore for 2019-20.

Meanwhile, the CPI said it has received a notice from the income-tax department for using an old PAN card while filing tax returns during the last few years.

”We are seeking legal assistance and consulting our lawyers,” a senior CPI leader told PTI.

A CPI leader earlier said the notice was for Rs 11 crore dues, but later another senior leader said the notice did not mention the penalty amount.

The I-T department has also withdrawn the tax exemption of the CPI (Marxist) for 2016-17 and taxed the Left party Rs 15.59 crore for not declaring a bank account in its tax returns for the year.

The CPI(M) has claimed that it had filed its income tax returns in compliance with the notice and submitted various submissions from time to time, and that not mentioning the bank account was an ”oversight” on its part.

Trinamool Congress leader Saket Gokhale also claimed he has received 11 I-T notices in the last 72 hours.

Source: Press Trust of India

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