I-T Dept Conducts Raids, Surveys On Unrecognised Political Parties, NGOs

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New Delhi- The Income Tax department on Wednesday conducted raids and surveys in various states in separate cases related to alleged tax evasion, violation of FCRA violation and illicit funding of registered unrecognised political parties, official sources said.

The coordinated operations were carried out at over 110 locations in Gujarat, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana and some other states against certain registered unrecognised political parties and their alleged dubious financial transactions, they said.

Some other instances of political funding through alleged illegal means are also being investigated as part of the action, they said.

The surprise action is understood to have been taken by the department on a recent recommendation of the Election Commission (EC) as part of which at least 198 entities were struck off from its list of registered unrecognised political parties after they were found non-existent during physical verification.

The poll panel had announced that it was taking action against more than 2,100 entities, categorised as registered unrecognised political parties by it, for flouting rules and election laws, including those related to filing of monetary contributions, failing to update their address and names of office bearers.

It had said some of these parties were indulging in “serious” financial impropriety.

While the searches were on, another operation was unleashed at the premises of NGOs including Delhi-based think-tank Centre for Policy Research (CPR) and global NGO Oxfam India apart from a media foundation as part of a probe related to alleged FCRA contravention in funds received by them, the sources said.

The taxman undertook the surprise action against three more organisations in the non-governmental organisation (NGO) and charitable organisation domain, they said.

Sources said the department is looking at the balance sheets of these organisations vis-a-vis the receipt of funds via the FCRA.

According to law, all NGOs receiving foreign funds have to be registered under the FCRA. The government has cancelled FCRA registration of nearly 1,900 NGOs for violating various provisions of law in the last five years. There were 22,762 FCRA-registered organisations till December-end 2021.

In Congress-ruled Rajasthan, the sleuths conducted searches at the premises of Rajasthan Minister of State for Home Rajendra Yadav and his family members.

Income tax department sources said the searches are being conducted as part of a tax evasion investigation.

“The Income Tax department is conducting raids at business premises and residences in Kotputli and Uttarakhand. Reasons are not known,” Yadav said.

The Congress MLA from Kotputli constituency and his family members are in the business of manufacturing bags for fertilisers, grains, and cement. They are also in food business such as flour and pulses.

“Raids are being conducted at five-six places. We do not mind (officers) doing the search because we do clean businesses. If the central government feels that something is wrong, then let them do it. I know this much that we are with the truth,” Yadav told reporters at his civil lines residence here.

He said he was not told anything about the raids.

“When we asked them (officers), they said that the search has to be done, the (central) government has sent them,” he said.

Yadav said his family has been in the business for 72-74 years. He said they run a clean business, having no role in any political funding.

“It is our ancestral business,” he said. “My father was in the business from 1950-52, I have been doing it before I entered into politics and both of my sons are also engaged in the business. We are into the production line and supply materials to companies. This should not be associated with things like political funding.”

Another Congress-ruled state Chhattisgarh also came on the radar of tax sleuths with searches at multiple locations linked to some businessmen, they said.

The nature of the action being carried out by the I-T department is not yet clear, they said.

Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel told reporters at the Raipur airport that he had already predicted raids by the Income Tax and the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

“I had said (that raids will happen) now ED will also follow them,” Baghel said when asked about the action by the IT department.

Last week, Baghel had said his “well-wishers” informed him that Chhattisgarh will soon see raids by the ED and IT because MLAs of the ruling UPA coalition from neighbouring Jharkhand were staying at a resort near Raipur.

The legislators of the JMM-Congress-RJD coalition had stayed in the resort for six days before they were flown back to Ranchi on Sunday.

Commenting on the raids, Chhattisgarh Congress communication wing’s chief Sushil Anand Shukla alleged the Modi government has been misusing the Central probe agencies.

“There are reports that raids are being carried out by I-T at the premises of some businessmen. The way the Modi government is misusing Central investigation agencies, a slogan ‘kednra sarkar ke teen jamai (sons-in-law), ED, IT, and CBI’ has become common among people,” he said.

Shukla alleged the Modi government has misused the Central agencies against its political opponents so much in the last eight years that even when I-T conducts raids as part of the routine investigation it is also seen as a politically motivated exercise.

Some other searches were also understood to have been undertaken by the department on Wednesday.

Statement of Independent And Public-Spirited Media Foundation

This statement is being issued in response to media interest.

A team of income tax officials came for a “survey” to the Bengaluru office of the Foundation on Wednesday, September 7. They stayed till 4.30 this morning, going through the papers and records of the Foundation and asking questions.

The Foundation’s staff were cooperative and answered all questions put to them on a wide range of matters. The officials took statements from three senior staff members. All laptops and mobile phones were taken for cloning data in them and returned last night.

All staff other than the CEO, Sunil Rajshekhar, were allowed to go home at various stages in the evening/night of September 7, and asked to return the following morning for further questioning. The CEO slept in the office for a few hours on the intervening night of September 7-8.

The Board of Trustees compliments the staff on their good cheer and fortitude through the extended proceedings.

The IT officials were courteous during their survey work.

The Foundation believes that its affairs are entirely in order. Some media reporting on the IT survey has linked it to foreign funding and the funding of political parties. We wish to make it clear that the Foundation has received no foreign funds at any stage, and has funded only media entities.

The Foundation believes in its mission of supporting independent and public-spirited media, and intends to continue its work.

Congress slams Centre over ‘raids’ against CPR, Oxfam India, IPSMF

The Congress slammed the Centre over “raids” against some Delhi-based think-tanks alleging that it is a deliberate move to exterminate all independent media and voices.

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said it’s absolutely atrocious that research & advocacy organisations, and independent charitable trusts like CPR, Oxfam, and IPSMF have been raided “at the behest of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.”

“It’s a deliberate move to exterminate all independent media and voices!” Ramesh said in a video statement from here.

Another example of weaponisation of agencies to harass critical voices: Amnesty on I-T searches

A day after the Income Tax department conducted searches at premises of some NGOs, Amnesty International on Thursday said this is yet another “blatant” example of how investigative agencies have been “weaponised” to harass and intimidate independent critical voices.

Indian authorities must immediately stop these “tactics of repression” and ensure that civil society organisations are able to operate without the fear of reprisal in the country, it said.

Yamini Mishra, South Asia regional director at Amnesty International, said, “The coordinated raids, which are being presented as ‘surveys’, carried out by the Income Tax department against multiple civil society organisations are yet another blatant example of how financial and investigative agencies of the government have been weaponised to harass, intimidate, silence, and criminalise independent critical voices in the country.”

“It is alarming how the attack on the rights to freedom of expression and association by the authorities keeps growing unabated every day in India,” she said in a statement.

Mishra said the raids were a “heavy-handed attempt by the government to instill fear among the staff, supporters and funders of these organisations, and to impose a chilling effect to silence civil society at large”.

Previously, the offices of Amnesty International India and Greenpeace India were raided by various central agencies.

“These raids, which constitute intrusive scrutiny and burdensome administrative requirements, are a violation of the rights to association and to privacy protected under international human rights law.

“Authorities must ensure that any processes undertaken to ensure transparency and accountability from organisations are not arbitrary and are non-discriminatory,” Mishra said.

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