Opposition up in arms as IT panel dismisses Sahara diary

: In yet another twist to the ongoing controversy over the Sahara-Birla papers that allegedly details illegal payments to several politicians, the Income Tax Settlement Commission (ITSC) has swiftly issued an order granting Sahara India immunity from prosecution, while dismissing the evidentiary value of the sensational diary recovered from the company’s premises.

As details of the order emerged, Opposition parties launched a fresh attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying the order was immunity granted to him against allegations that the Sahara group paid him Rs. 55 crore in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

According to sources, Sahara India was granted immunity from prosecution and penalty by the ITSC in the order passed on November 10. The story was first reported by Indian Express.

The ITSC agreed with Sahara’s claim that the Income Tax department failed to prove the authenticity of the loose sheets of paper, recovered during a raid, that show massive payments to several politicians, including the Prime Minister when he was the Gujarat Chief Minister.

The ITSC quoted the Sahara group as saying “these are dumb documents written by some disgruntled employees.”

Reversal of stand

The ITSC order agreed with Sahara’s argument that one of its employees got together with a friend to malign another employee, who headed the office of Sahara Group chairman. Noticeably, the present order is a complete reversal of ITSC’s original stand rejecting settlement by the Sahara group.

According to reports, the final order was issued after just three hearings and it was issued just three days after the last hearing in the case on November 7, 2016.

According to a former employee of ITSC, anywhere between a year and 18 months is the time taken for settlement from the time an application is filed and there are four stages of hearing. Rarely has an ITSC passed a judgment in less than a year.

The Commission has stated that only the amount seized during the raids, Rs. 137.58 crore, would now be taxed. And considering the company’s financial difficulties, it has been allowed to pay them in 12 instalments.

Immunity for Modi: Rahul

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi alleged that the immunity granted to Sahara was actually intended for Mr. Modi.

“Immunity for Sahara or immunity for Modiji? If your conscience is clear Modiji, why fear investigation?” Mr. Gandhi tweeted.

Aam Aadmi Party leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal alleged that Mr. Modi was scuttling all inquiries against him and said the order ‘proved’ that the Prime Minister took bribes. “Not Sahara but Modi ji who gets immunity. He recd bribes from Sahara. Modiji scuttling all enquiries against him. Proves he took bribes,” Mr. Kejriwal said in a tweet.

Sahara-Birla papers

The Sahara papers, along with the Birla papers, which also show alleged payments of Rs. 25 crore to Mr. Modi when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat, have been at the centre of a major political storm. The papers were placed in the Delhi Assembly by Mr. Kejriwal.

In the Sahara papers, which are mostly computer printouts and handwritten sheets, there are detailed entries showing payments to over 100 politicians from at least 14 parties.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan has also filed a PIL plea before the Supreme Court demanding investigation into the Sahara-Birla papers. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for January 11.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2021 5:30:05 PM |

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