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Did EC help BJP backdate their Donation Report to help it get tax exemption?

Arti Ghargi

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When HW News checked the EC website at around 11 AM on Monday, the date of filing was July 27, 2018. However, at around 4 PM the date had been updated to October 31, 2018.

 

The free and fair elections are one of the foundation stones of a robust democracy. In India, the responsibility of conducting elections lies with the Election Commission of India. In the recent times, the institution has come under severe criticism with opposition party leaders alleging that the election commission is working under the influence of the ruling BJP. Though, the election commission has dismissed the allegations, time and again questions were raised on the credibility of the institution.

One such recent revelation made by an RTI activist has only added to the growing suspicion. According to a report, Madhya Pradesh-based RTI activist Ajay Dubey sent an email to the Election Commission and Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) on November 18, 2018. In the email, Dubey complained against the ruling BJP and 30 other parties for not submitting their contribution report even after the deadline i.e. October 31. A day later, Dubey met Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat in Bhopal and submitted 5 pages long elaborated complaint. In the complaint letter, Dubey cited the information available on the EC website and said that according to the updates of November 1, 2018, BJP and 30 other political parties have failed to submit the Contribution Report (CR) within the prescribed time limit. In light of this, quick action should be taken.

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What followed after his complaint definitely raises eyebrows! According to Dubey, on November 19, the link to the contribution report on the website was disabled. However, the very next day, the contribution report of BJP appeared on the website. Surprisingly, the date of filing mentioned on the website was July 27, 2018. Moreover, the date mentioned on the documents submitted by the BJP is October 31. The quick and almost shoddy developments in the issue after Dubey’s complaint led to a strong suspicion whether there has been a meddling in the process of filing Contribution Report of BJP? Was the report backdated? It also begs us question whether EC is also party to it?

Further, an NDTV report points out to the many parts of the reports which beg a question whether there has been a procedural change to enable BJP to file their Contribution report even after the set deadline.

But let us first know what is a Contribution Report and why political parties have to file it with Election Commission of India.

 

 What is a Contribution Report?

The political parties are expected to submit an annual report to the Election Commission of India listing the donations above rupees 20000 that they have received. This report is called a ‘Contribution/ Donation Report’. Talking to HW News, Laxmi Sriram who works with the Association of Democratic Reforms said that the donation report (Contribution Report) that the political parties file with the EC is not mandatory. “They (Political Parties) are required to submit the copies of the donation report before the due date of filing of their IT returns. And only if they file their donation report they get a 100% tax exemption. Even if it says in one line that they have not received donations above rupees 20,000 that is considered valid,” she said.

EC

Image Source: eci.gov.in

Upon receipt of these documents, the EC sends a letter to the Income Tax Department confirming that particular party has submitted their Donation report. In case the political party does not file a donation report within the stipulated period, ECI sends three reminders to the president or the treasurer of the political party. “In case, the party does not respond to the reminders, it is not further pursued by the EC,” Ms Laxmi said.

However, a scrutiny of the Donation reports of the political parties indicates that a different route of procedure seems to have been followed for BJP.

The process followed by ECI for the filing of documents?

When a political party submits the contribution report to the EC, the details are first recorded on the R & I section (reception section). The date and the diary number is entered on the cover of the report followed by a stamp. The Report is then sent to the Political Participation Expenditure Monitoring Section (PPEMS). Here, again a date and diary number are entered on the cover and stamp of the PPEMS section is put up.

However, the Contribution Report filed by the BJP only has the stamp by PPEMS. The initial stamp along with the R & I entry is not registered on the document. So was the initial step in the procedure of filing of Contribution report skipped for BJP? Why did other political parties go through the two layers of registration?

ECI

Image Source: eci.gov.in

Ajay Dubey, the RTI activist talking to HW News said, “The report being directly sent to the DG expenditure and the website going down after the complaint, raises suspicion.” The election commission should issue a clarification on what is the truth, he demanded.

According to the NDTV report, the BJP also hasn’t submitted certificates from the companies it has received donations from which mandatory under section 182 of the Companies Act.

Was the report backdated to help BJP get tax exemption?

 If the Contribution report of BJP was submitted on November 20 (days after the deadline), the party clearly does not qualify to get a tax exemption as per the provisions of Representative of people Act, 1951. On the other hand, another provision of the act (Section 29 C) says that only if the parties file their tax returns and Contribution report before the given deadline, they will be eligible for the tax exemption.

EC

Image Source: eci.gov.in

The BJP, in the year 2016-2017 declared an income of Rs 1,034 crore which is the highest among all the political parties in India. The donation to the party from unknown sources only amounted to rupees 710 crores. Not filing contribution report on time means BJP would have to lose out on the tax exemption.

So, was the report backdated to help BJP get tax exemption?

What HW News found?

To verify the claims, HW News checked the website of Election Commission of India. The information column at the right of BJP’s contribution report section showed the date of filing. Here’s where things get a little murky. When HW News checked the website at around 11 AM in the morning, the date of filing was July 27, 2018. However, at around 4 PM when we checked the website again, the date had been updated to October 31, 2018. Was this an error? If it was why did the ECI not clear it after making the corrections?

EC

Image Source: eci.gov.in

The rather prompt and surprising developments in the case not only need a clarification from the Election Commission but also from the BJP. It will definitely put a question mark on the credibility of the ECI if it fails to answer the questions!

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Supreme Court asks search committee on Lokpal to recommend names by Feb end

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New Delhi | The Supreme Court on Thursday fixed a February end deadline for the search committee on Lokpal to recommend the panel of names for appointment of the first anti-graft ombudsman of the country.

The search committee is headed by former apex court judge Justice (retd) Ranjana Prakash Desai,

A bench headed by the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi directed the Centre to provide the search committee with the requisite infrastructure and manpower to enable it to complete its work.

The bench, also comprising Justices L N Rao and S K Kaul, said it would hear the matter again on March 7.

Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, told the bench there were certain problems like lack of infrastructure and manpower due to which the search committee was not able to hold deliberations on the issue.

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BJP not involved in any operation to topple Cong-JDS government: Yeddyurappa

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Yeddyurappa

Bengaluru | BJP Karnataka chief B S Yeddyurappa on Thursday said no member of his party was involved in any operation to topple the Congress-JD(S) coalition government.

With the ongoing power tussle between the ruling Congress-JD(S) coalition and BJP in Karnataka intensifying, both sides have been trading charges of trying to poach each other’s MLAs.

“The BJP has nothing do with ruling coalition MLAs who are in Mumbai,” the former Chief Minister said and accused the Congress and JD(S) of trying to shift the blame on his party to cover up their ‘failures and inability’ to keep their flock together. “No one from the BJP has indulged in any kind of operation or luring Congress-JD(S) MLAs.

We had gathered all our MLAs atone place and were discussing about the preparations for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls for the last two-three days. Todayall are coming back,” Yeddyurappa said.

Speaking to reporters here, he hit out at the Congress leaders, saying they talk about the Constitution, but everyone was aware of how they played with it since 1960. “Why do they have to fear if we gather our MLAs, I don’t understand. Internal fight within Congress and JD(S) is going out of control… to cover up their internal squabbles, they should not blame the BJP,” he added.

Yeddyurappa, who was in New Delhi and Gurugram along with 104 BJP MLAs for the last few days, returned to the city to visit the ailing 111-year-old prominent seer Shivakumara Swamiji of Siddaganga mutt in Tumakuru district.

Reacting to Congress-JD(S) leaders’ claims that some BJP MLAs were in touch with them, Yeddyurappa said, “We are together. You (Congress-JD(S) have said four to five MLAs are in your contact. Call them. Let me see.

If your MLAs have gone to Mumbai or Delhi, what do we have to do with it? It is -Congress-JD(S)- your duty to keep your legislators intact. No one is in touch with us…I’mtelling you,”he added.

The Leader of Opposition in the assembly also questioned as to who the leaders of Congress-JD(S) combine were to question his party about camping in Gurugram. “Who are they to ask where we are going? You try tokeep your MLAs intact, why are you blaming us? Tomorrow they (Congress) have called their legislature party meeting. how many will come it will be known, their true colours will come out tomorrow.” “Without understanding that your MLAs are dissatisfied and disgruntled, don’t unnecessarily put blame on BJP,” Yeddyurppa said.

Pointing out that during S M Krishna’s chief ministership, Maharashtra MLAs were kept at a resort in Mysuru, and recently Gujarat MLAs were put up in a resort in Bengaluru, Yeddyurappa questioned as to “where did Congress’ democracy go then?”

Hitting out at Congress leader and former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, Yeddyurappa said despite being taught a lesson by the people ofChamundeshwari constituency, he had notlearnt anything.

Siddaramaiah lost the Chamundeshwari assembly seat in the May polls, though he won from Badami. Lashing out at the BJP and calling it “shameless” for allegedly luring ruling coalition MLAs, Siddaramaiah on Wednesday had said that Yeddyurappa has grown old, but has no wisdom.

Yeddyurappa also targeted former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda and called him “a political opportunist”. “…all his fights and principles are only limited to secure his and his family’s political interests.People of the state are well aware of Deve Gowda’s use and throw policy,” hesaid.

Targeting Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy, Yeddyurappa said 156 taluks were in the grip of drought, but the chief minister and his ministers are not working effectively. “What are you doing? Who is travelling- Chief Ministers and Ministers- What steps have you taken when farmers are in distress?” he questioned. “In such a grave situation, without doing your duty, you are trying to shift the blame on BJP. You will not gain anything from it,” he said.

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Congress MLAs, MLCs urge Rahul Gandhi to nominate CLP leader

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Rahul Gandhi

Hyderabad | Newly-elected Congress MLAs and MLCs in Telangana on Thursday unanimously resolved to urge party president Rahul Gandhi to nominate their leader.

The meeting was attended by AICC representative K C Venugopal, who spoke to party MLAs, MLCs and MPs on the matter.

Venugopal said he would convey the legislators’ views to Gandhi, who would take a decision as early as possible.

“We took a unanimous resolution authorising the Congress president to nominate the new CLP (Congress legislature Party) leader of Telangana,” he said.

Congress won 19 seats in the 119-member house in the December 7 assembly elections.

Meanwhile, the first session of the assembly after the polls began here Thursday with the newly elected members taking oath as MLAs.

Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao was the first to take oath.

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