In more trouble for Delhi PWD Minister Raj Kumar Chauhan, Union Home Ministry has directed city government to file a detailed report about his alleged involvement in protecting a leading resort in a tax evasion case for which the Lokayukta had recommended his removal.
The Home Ministry’s direction to the Delhi Government came nearly two months after the Lokayukta Justice Manmohan Sarin, in an unprecedented order, had recommended to President Pratibha Patil to “withdraw her pleasure” for the Minister to continue in office as he “misused” his official position and indicted him for misconduct of “grave nature”.
While the decision about Mr. Chauhan’s fate lies with the President, who has three months to decide on the issue, top sources in the city government said a detailed report on the issue would be sent to the Home Ministry within a couple of days.
“We have received a communication from the Home Ministry on the Lokayukta order against Raj Kumar Chauhan. “A detailed report is being sent,” top sources in Delhi Government told PTI.
The communication from the Home Ministry, officials said, is part of the decision making process by the President which is expected to be completed by the end of May.
Justice Sarin’s order in late February had come in a case pertaining to Mr. Chauhan’s alleged involvement in influencing a team of tax officials when they were carrying out a survey at the premises of Tivoli Garden resort in South Delhi in February last year.
The opposition BJP has been pressing for Mr. Chauhan’s removal since issuance of the order by the Lokayukta and had even targeted Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit for not sacking him.
Mr. Chauhan, who represents Mangopuri Assembly constituency in Outer Delhi, is considered close to Ms. Dikshit and was given the Urban Development portfolio in the recent reshuffle of the Cabinet even as he was facing criticism for alleged irregularities in certain CWG projects implemented by his Public Works Department.
The CBI yesterday registered a case against some officials of the Public Works Department (PWD) and a few firms in connection with alleged irregularities in the project for construction of the Rs 620 crore Barapullah Nullah flyover for the Commonwealth Games.
The Lokayukta order had said that “the Minister made a telephone call to the Commissioner of Trade of Taxes in the evening of February 20 last year when a team of tax officials were carrying search and survey at the premises of Tivoli Garden Resort to unearth huge evasion of taxes and concealment of income.”
The Lokayukta had also recommended initiation of proceedings against the Minister in accordance with law.
The tax officials had conducted survey at various resorts and banquet halls in February last year as per an instruction by then Finance Minister A K Walia following reports that they are indulging in large-scale tax evasion by way of under-reporting their annual turnover.
In his defence, Mr. Chauhan said as public representative, he gets lots of calls from people requesting for favours and he only responded to such a call.
Following the Lokayukta order, Ms. Dikshit had attacked the Lokayukta and even said that there was a need to look into the functioning of the body and to make it “more transparent” and “just”.
In an apparent criticism of Ms. Dikshit’s remarks, the Lokayukta had demanded more teeth to probe graft cases against public functionaries and asked the Chief Minister to view the institution as an “aid” for probity in governance rather than an obstacle.
As Lokayukta’s orders are recommendatory in nature, Mr. Chauhan’s fate is now dependent on the President’s decision.