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Raid Politicians, But Not Selectively

Akhilesh Bhargava

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It has always been well known, that apart from the tax evader businessman and industrialist, the biggest hoarders of black money have been the politicians and the bureaucrats. In fact it is often seen that seniority in politics is directly determined by the size of the loot at the disposal of the politician. While the source of the black money of the businessman has been tax evasion and crime, that of the politician has been much more disturbing and serious viz. corruption and crime. Being the rewards of crime, the politician cannot legitimise it, even if he is willing to pay taxes thereon, which interestingly, many are indeed willing to. Thus these proceeds of plunder remain in hidden and undisclosed assets, by way of cash, gold benami shares, land etc. and where the amount is sizeable, it has been parked is hidden bank accounts in tax havens like Switzerland, Panama, Dubai, Singapore etc. Such corruption of the netas, apart from perpetrating crime in India, has also denied the country the benefit of these funds of black money, which cannot be disclosed and put to national use. It is often said that if all the funds of Indians, that have been illegally parked in tax havens abroad were found and put to national use, our national problem of poor infrastructure would be resolved.

Despite the fact that this loot, at the disposal of the politician stares in your face, yet there has been political unwillingness to raid politicians and unearth and seize the huge funds that they have plundered, for very obvious reasons. This has been so irrespective of the party in power, because at the end of the day when the top politicians of the country sit together on the cocktail bar, they are mafia brothers, out to protect each other.

The attitude towards tackling politicians, has however been a bit different under the Modi regime. We often hear of income tax and ED raids being conducted against various politicians. Politicians have been raided by the tax sleuths in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and now a minister in the AAP government of Arvind Kejriwal has been at the receiving end of a tax raid. These raids are generally successful, because the entire business of politics is founded on and funded by black money. Whether it is contesting elections or the shameful horse trading thereafter, the tool of the trade is black money only. The bigger the neta, the bigger the loot he possesses and that much easy a sitting duck he should be for the tax authorities.

If these netas are tackled and tamed across the board, irrespective of their party affiliation and their loot is seized by the state, their political careers would be finished and India would be cleansed of the curse of political corruption and plunder of the nation. But for that, one law and one nation must apply to all the politicians and not selectively as we presently see. At present, the tax and ED raids, though justified and highly successful, are being selectively conducted against the opposition party netas, for political gains, revenge and vindictiveness. That may finish a neta, but it will not finish the crime of corruption and tax evasion in India, which is what it is meant to. Raids on politicians are welcome, but not for settling political scores or gaining political victories.

        

Business Tit-Bits

Why is India going through a liquidity crisis? #BusinessTitBits

Akhilesh Bhargava

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Money is extremely scarce at present in the Indian economy. Experts say that India is passing through its worst liquidity crisis, of the past five years. It is not that Indians are not earning/saving enough, or that there is a shortage of currency in circulation in the system, (it is in fact at a record high), but for those businesses that desperately need it, the money is missing. The question is why Mr. Akhilesh Bhargava, Business Editor of HW Business and Finance shares his insights on the matter.

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Business Tit-Bits

The IT raid on Raghav Bahl

Akhilesh Bhargava

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Bahl

Last Thursday, Mr. Raghav Bahl, the founder of the popular website ‘The Quint’, where he also has a tie-up with Bloomberg, was at the receiving end of an income tax raid. The raid lasted 23 gruelling hours, at his residence and offices, where his mother and wife, as also his many employees were confined and were questioned. In pursuance of their wide power, the IT sleuths took data backup of many computers and the cell phones of many persons and recorded numerous statements on oath. The reason for the raid is Raghav Bahl’s claim of tax-exempt long-term capital gains of Rs. 100 crores, which the tax department alleges is bogus. It was thus his contentious/debatable claim for LTCG, that led to a tax raid on him. Being a powerful media baron, who has been a trenchant critic of the present government and who is an executive member of the Editors Guild of India, the IT raid was alleged to be a motivated one, to suppress and curb the freedom of press. The IT raid on the Quint founder, thus obviously hit the national headlines.

Now before we examine the motives and bonafides of the tax raid, let me tell you that in any IT raid, whether on a small entrepreneur or a high profile one, certain procedures are routine and uniform in all raids viz. confining persons and curbing their movements, recording statements on oath, taking data backup of cell phones and computers, examining books of accounts and records, opening bank lockers, sealing of records/valuables so that they are not whisked away and continuing the search action, as long as is needed to unearth incriminating hidden evidence and assets, due to which the raid had to be conducted. These are normal routine procedures that are followed in each raid and there is nothing abnormal and discriminatory if Mr. Raghav Bahl and his family etc. were subjected to them. Moreover, these are under a lot of supervision/surveillance of the senior authorities, to prevent any misuse thereof, because it is always recognised that a tax raid violates one of the most basic rights of an individual, which is his right to privacy. The presence of any alien on your private premises can be intimidating and stressful and that certainly applies to an income tax raid, as in the case of Mr. Raghav Bahl.

The motive of the raid and its justification in the case of Mrs. Raghav Bahl, however, is not clear. Merely because the income tax department may have a difference of opinion in the matter of taxability of the long-term capital gains of Rs. 100 crores as claimed by him, that does not justify him being subjected to the stress, rigours and harassment of an income tax raid. A tax raid is justified, where the assessee is not cooperating, or is a tax evader who will destroy incriminating evidence or who is likely to run away from the authorities. But none of that applies to Mr. Raghav Bahl, a media tycoon in his own standing and with deep business roots in India. The ITD could have summoned him and questioned him, instead of conducting a tax raid, which is anyway reported to have found nothing incriminating against him. A debatable tax issue is to be judiciously decided by courts and not by a tax raid. That makes the motive of the tax raid on Mr. Raghav Bahl suspect.

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Business Tit-Bits

Was the IT Raid on Raghav Bahl an act of political vendetta? #BusinessTitBits

Akhilesh Bhargava

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It was last Thursday that founder of The Quint Mr. Raghav Bahl was subjected to what he calls a ‘gruelling’ Income Tax Raid. His offices were searched, along with his residence for straight 23 hours. His wife and mother as he says were confined and were not allowed any access to mobile phones or any kind of communication or the need to take advice from consultants. The Income Tax department on the other hand says that the raid was for Bahl’s bogus claims of long-term capital gains worth Rs. 100 crores, which he clearly denies. The question is, was this raid on him a political vendetta? Mr. Akhilesh Bhargava, Business Editor of HW Business and Finance shares his insights on the matter.

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