New Delhi: In the two days after Cafe Coffee Day owner VG Siddhartha went missing and was subsequently found dead on Wednesday morning, business leaders and politicians have come together to point out harassment by income tax officials.
Member of Parliament, Manish Tiwari, on Wednesday gave an adjournment notice in the Lok Sabha on the harassment by I-T officials, which according to him, led to the death of Siddhartha.
The debate sparked off when Siddhartha, in his last letter before he went missing, alleged harassment by the previous DG, Income Tax.
“There was a lot of harassment from the previous DG income tax attaching our shares on two separate occasions to block our Mindtree deal and then taking position of our Cafe Coffee Day shares, although the revised returns have been filed by us. This is very unfair and has led to serious liquidity crunch,” the letter read.
Supreme Court advocate and national spokesperson of Congress, Brijesh Kalappa, tweeted saying, “VG Siddhartha Hegde, Founder of Cafe Coffee Day, home grown entrepreneur who gave 50,000 people a livelihood is no more. He was killed mercilessly by Tax Terrorists who are now seeking to besmirch his memory by selectively leaking material against him.”
Kalappa’s tweet was followed by the Karnataka Congress condemning taxmen as well. “VG Siddhartha case is very unfortunate. Result of harassment by IT officials & decline of India’s entrepreneurial position turning virulent by the day, with Tax Terror & collapse of economy… Companies which flourished under UPA have been shut down with many people being jobless,” tweeted Karnataka Congress early in Wednesday.
The Café Coffee Day owner found himself in trouble in 2017 when the Income Tax Department first raided his premises and found Rs 650 crore concealed income from the documents seized while concluding the search and seize operations.
Seconding the same debate, Biocon CMD Kiran Majumdar Shaw in an interview with News18 said, “India has moved from License Raj to Inspector Raj. There is an effort to clean India Inc but the pendulum cannot swing from one extreme to the other. The government needs to exchange with honest businessmen.”
In conversation with a news channel, former Infosys board member V Balakrishnan said, “The contents of the letter are very disturbing. He is talking about tax terrorism. He is talking about pressure in the business because of huge debt.”
Balakrishnan added that tax authorities have become much more confrontational. “We are seeing tax terrorism increasing across the board and talk to any entrepreneur, any HNI and they will have some kind of friction with tax department. It is all adding up. It is very sad thing that it is ending this way,” he said.
Siddhartha’s body was found on Wednesday after a massive search operation. The 60-year-old had gone missing between 6 pm to 8 pm on Monday night. He was on his way towards Sakleshpur town in an Innova when he asked the driver to turn towards Mangaluru. He later got off near the bridge across Netravati river and went missing.
Chairman of Manipal Global Education and former Infosys Director, Mohandaas Pai, on Tuesday stated that when there’s too much power in the hands of officials, it can lead to misuse. “The Parliament should not have given taxmen the power to arrest. Only a court should have the power to issue an arrest warrant,” he said.