New Delhi: What is common between Shashi Tharoor, Robert Vadra and Abhishek Manu Singhvi? Well apart from the obvious fact that they are associated with the Congress party in some way, directly or indirectly, there is a strikingly similar pattern of how half-truths and innuendos being used by a certain section of the media is doing what I describe as a 'hit job' on them, perhaps at the behest of those, who seem to benefit most by the political fall out of focussing on non-issues rather than serious issues of governance that have virtually disappeared from the larger media discourse in the last few months, particularly in the run up to elections.
Since Abhishek Manu Singhvi, one of the more articulate faces of the Congress party is the newest target, let us examine the convenient, selective omission of certain facts on the story doing the rounds against him! This in itself will be an eye-opener to many.
Fact1: The very operation of the order of the Settlement Commission (SC), being bandied around in the media, has been stayed by the High Court. Thus, in law, no order exists and none is operative. The discussion on such sub judice cases and that too in such a partisan, misleading manner speaks about the hidden agenda behind it!
Fact2: The SC order was received around Sept 22 and its operation was stayed in early October. Even otherwise, under the Income Tax Act itself, the entire proceedings including the Order, are confidential. No other assessee's affairs are tossed about in the media in this manner. Tax proceedings are confidential, especially that of SC. Seems that "friends" of Dr.Singhvi, in politics and the profession, are raking this up after two months to create a public space for private statutory confidential proceedings which started in 2013?
Fact3: Well before any coercive steps were taken by the IT Department, Dr.Singhvi's Chartered Accountant had reported destruction of records over two years ago. The report had been independently filed and recorded by the police and has not been displaced in any manner, even in the SC order. How come sensational attention grabbing headlines missed this fact?
Fact4: In this entire matter, there was no issue regarding wrongful receipts. 100% receipts are admittedly by cheque!
Fact5: It was Dr.Singhvi who suo motu approached the SC because of record destruction which is the reason for & the basis of the application. The SC order argues that since records are absent, they will subject 90% of income to taxation and also levied penalty on the whole! If records had been available, there could be no reason to approach the SC in the first place! Now how is this being made out to be an issue of black money by the BJP baffles me! How is a case of some ordinary tax dispute, especially one between a person who is admittedly the 2nd or 3rd highest tax payer in India amongst lawyers, taken up by the assessee himself with the authorities a case of dishonesty? And how on earth is such a private affair something that makes the Congress party answerable? Is the BJP willing to give an on-record affidavit that none of its leaders and spokespmen, especially the one's who are engaged in entrepreneurship and professional services, have never ever a dispute on such a matter?
Fact6: The order itself suffers from legal malice and perversity also for the following reasons:
(A) The basis of penalty is a prejudicial statement by a person who is not allowed to be cross examined by the assessee: such a statement cannot even be looked at.
(B) The statement is not recorded on oath, not under the relevant statutory provision of the Income Tax Act and hence inadmissible.
(C) The penalty, if at all leviable, could be only on the statement and would be limited to Rs 1.5 cr. Instead it has been levied on the whole 90% income subjected to tax (latter itself wrongly added per para 6 above.)
(D) The SC has no power to levy penalty at all! They can, at most, refuse or grant immunity from penalty.
(E) Prejudicial statements were recorded against assessee more than 120 days after the statutory mandatory non extendable and non condonable time limit of 90 days.
(F) Such Recordals were beyond the jurisdiction of the Department since theCommission had never directed or ordered any such thing on this issue
(G) In its blind desire to hold against the assessee, the SC has even done a further patent arithmetical error of over 5 cr in its attached computation sheet.
It is strange to say the least that a sub judice matter should be discussed in this manner on the basis of an order the very operation of which has been judicially stayed! It is even stranger that the BJP with all its tall promises on black money, chided by the Supreme Court, now goes witch hunting on a non-starter of an issue rather than focussing on bringing back the huge amounts it claimed was stashed away in Switzerland! If indeed BJP is serious on issues of financial propriety how about the unaccounted spurt in assets of various ministers in Modiji's cabinet, put out by ADR? Sadanand Gowda's assets have grown by a whopping Rs10.46 crores as per ADR! We all saw how huge amounts of cash, not justified by sources declared by Giriraj Singh, BJP MP, were recovered from the thief that struck his home. Wonder if Enforcement Directorate and IT department would now be asking any questions of him after his induction into the cabinet for his financial wizardry? Perhaps, the BJP can also train its guns on dishonest middle men and real estate barons, who handle huge amounts of unaccounted wealth and known to fund the BJP, rather than make a mountain out of a mole hill about honest tax payers.