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Give us full report on raids, EC tells central agencies

By Anuj Cariappa

New Delhi, Apr 10: The Election Commission (EC) has directed the probe agencies under the central department of revenue to "come down heavily" on those who indulge in using black money and illegal inducements to vitiate the ongoing poll process.

CRPF jawans guard as Income Tax officials recover cash after raids at the premises of lobbyist Ashwini Sharma, in Bhopal

The EC also asked the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) to furnish to it a full report by Wednesday on the raids conducted by Income Tax Department on close aides of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath and others in four states on Sunday.

Union revenue secretary A B Pandey and CBDT chairman P C Mody on Tuesday morning met Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora and Election Commissioners Ashok Lavasa and Sushil Chandra, after the poll panel sought a meeting on a recent directive to the revenue department for a fair and impartial conduct of operations by agencies under its command, such as the I-T department, ED and Customs and DRI.

Official sources said the two officials briefed the EC on the intelligence inputs it is receiving during the election season and the mechanism to execute surprise checks and raids in case the inputs are "credible".

Congress factionalism behind raids against Kamal Nath aides?

A similar input was received by the Delhi investigation wing about "large-scale collection, possession and movement of unaccounted assets" from Madhya Pradesh to Delhi and hence the raids happened, the officials told the EC according to the sources.

It is likely that the tax department will in the coming days slap criminal charges for possessing illegal foreign assets and benami properties against the accused based on the document found during the raids.

As voluminous data, in the form of papers, diaries and hard drives, have been seized and are being processed, the CBDT was taking time to present a full report of the operation, they said.

They added that the I-T department has also grilled a few people and is sending summons to a number of them to depose so that the probe in the case can be taken forward.

It is understood that that the department wants to also grill S M Moin, an employee of senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel, after they searched his premises in Delhi's Geeta Colony over the past a few days.

Patel had visited Moin's house when I-T sleuths were present.

Sources in the tax department said they have seized hand-written and printed "records of funds collection and distribution" which they suspect were allegedly sourced illegally from government funds.

However, these are only preliminary inputs gathered after the seizures were made at 52 premises in four states, including Madhya Pradesh, since Sunday, they said.

The EC, the sources said, asked the Revenue Department and the CBDT to ensure that when they carry out such operations during election time, it should be based on "solid" inputs and "very credible" information as such action invites immediate concerns among political parties.

But the poll panel made it clear to the agencies that they should "come down heavily" on anyone indulging in using black money and illegal inducements to vitiate the election process.

It was underlined that the state chief electoral officer (CEO) should also be informed about the action in the "best possible time", they said.

The EC on Sunday "strongly advised" the finance ministry that any action by its enforcement agencies during election time should be "neutral" and "non-discriminatory" and officials of the poll panel should be kept in loop about such actions.

The poll panel's advice had come against the backdrop of Income Tax Department's raids in Madhya Pradesh on Sunday and in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh in the recent past on politicians and people connected to them.

Since the Model Code of Conduct came into force on March 10, the I-T department has carried out raids on the properties linked to political leaders and their associates which the opposition parties have dubbed a misuse of central agencies during the poll season.

The revenue department, in its reply to EC, had said its action has always been "neutral", "impartial" and "non-discriminatory" and the work of the agencies under it was undertaken irrespective of political affiliation.

The tax department on Monday said it has detected a "widespread and well-organised" racket of collection of unaccounted cash of about Rs 281 crore during raids against close aides of CM Nath and others.

It said sleuths have recovered Rs 14.6 crore of "unaccounted" cash and seized diaries and computer files of suspect payments made between the central Indian state and Delhi.

The CBDT, that frames policy for the I-T department, had said the department has also detected a trail of Rs 20 crore suspect cash allegedly being moved to the "headquarters of a major political party in Delhi" from the house of an important person who lives on Tughlaq Road, home to many VIPs.

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