The income-tax department has issued an assessment order of Rs 30.67 crore to the Aam Aadmi Party over alleged irregularities in donations it received to contest the Lok Sabha polls and the Delhi Assembly elections in 2014-15.
The party responded by claiming that the order was an attempt by the Centre to “crush the Opposition”. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted: “In the history of India, ALL donations to a political party have been declared illegal. All these were accounted for and shown in books of accounts. This is height of political vendetta.”
The BJP and the Congress, meanwhile, said the ruling party had betrayed its ideals of transparent politics.
The assessment order, issued on November 23, determined a total taxable income of Rs 68.44 crore for the party in the financial year 2014-15, and levied income tax of Rs 30.67 crore.
According to the order, investigators found a number of alleged irregularities — from AAP not recording donations of “Rs 13.16 crore in its books” to taking hawala entries of Rs 2 crore. It also alleged that the party “made all efforts to derail” the probe.
The order said that “penalty proceedings” were issued to AAP on November 23 for “concealing the particulars of income and furnishing inaccurate particulars of income”. AAP said it received the assessment order only on Monday, a day after the party celebrated the fifth year of its formation.
The order claimed that the party “made all efforts to derail the investigation by not filing replies and clarifications within prescribed time in response to 34 opportunities allowed to AAP during time of 550 days”, and that the party had “dragged assessment proceedings till limitation day to complete assessment”.
“AAP did not furnish reply within prescribed period of time for one reason to another but promptly filed RTI application asking for performance report of IT investigator just to browbeat him. The fact in this regard has been recorded,” it alleged.
According to the order, the party had “not recorded donations of Rs 13.16 crore in its books of accounts and in the audited income and expenditure account filled along with return of income for the FY 2014-15”. It added that “the names of addresses of the donors… were also not disclosed”. It further stated that AAP had not “recorded full details of name and address of 461 donors”, who had each donated Rs 20,000.
It alleged: “During the course of investigation, it was noticed that the AAP had not disclosed donation of Rs 36.95 crore on its website. However, on being caught, it had withdrawn donation details on its website as reported in media on December 26, 2016.” The AAP had not reported donations totalling Rs 29.13 crore — each donation exceeding Rs 20,000 — to the EC, the order claimed.
The order also alleged that AAP had “taken hawala entries of Rs 2 crore during FY 2014-15 from a hawala entry operator of Delhi (who also provided hawala entries to 372 other entities/person) and the same was incorrectly disclosed as voluntary donations”.
The order added that since AAP had not “correctly disclosed income from donations/contributions in its book of accounts, had not maintained prescribed details of the donors… and had submitted incorrect report…” It said that “the tax exemption available to the political party… was denied to AAP for the AY (assessment year) 2015-16”.
AAP leader Deepak Bajpai said, “The people who think they run the country think they can compromise the agencies and use them to crush the opposition in the country. But when everyone knows about other parties that function on black money, AAP is being targetted because of enmity and vindictiveness. Every one knows what we are being punished for.”
Asked about the allegation that AAP had been given “34 chances” to explain but had tried to “mislead” the probe, Bajpai said, “We have always cooperated with all agencies. But we can’t reply to the assessment order point-wise as it’s an ongoing probe by a judicial body.”
Delhi BJP president Manoj Tiwari, however, hit out at AAP for indulging in a “blame game”. “AAP should satisfy the authorities in the matter of the notice that has been served to them. When Arvind Kejriwal formed AAP, he claimed it was a party with transparent financial matters. But since its formation, AAP has been under suspicion. Today’s notice has come after a long personal hearing at the I-T department, so the party cannot claim innocence.”
Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken asked why the party had not clarified its stand, despite getting “34 chances” to reply. “AAP has given conflicting versions of its funding to the I-Tax department and the Election Commission… It gave favourable versions to different agencies, which exposed the party’s hidden intentions.”