The Income Tax Department on Tuesday slapped a penalty of Rs 10,000 on RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s MP daughter Misa Bharti for non-compliance of summons and issued her fresh summons in connection with its probe in the Rs 1,000 crore alleged benami land deals and tax evasion case. Bharti was supposed to appear before the investigating officer (IO) of the case on Tuesday but officials said she failed to keep the date.
The IO has levied a penalty of Rs 10,000 against her for non-compliance of summons under section 131 of the Income Tax Act with a show cause notice to her in this regard, officials said. She has now been asked to appear on June 12, they said, adding the department’s queries in this case were to be answered by Bharti and not by any of her authorised representatives.
They said the summons required Bharti to appear in person on Tuesday and join the investigation along with some personal financial documents. It was not clear if Bharti gave any reasons to the department for her non-appearance or she sent a lawyer to represent herself, which was rejected by the department.
Bharti’s husband, Shailesh Kumar, has also been summoned in the same case by the department for on Wednesday. The department wants to question the couple to take the probe further in this case, where the taxman had conducted multiple searches last month.
A chartered accountant, Rajesh Kumar Agrawal, allegedly linked to Bharti and others, was also arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on May 22. Agrawal is alleged to have aided in illegal transactions involving Lalu’s kin.
Officials have earlier said that the summons to Bharti and Kumar were part of the probe in the case and their statements will be recorded. The couple allegedly have links with a firm — Ms Mishail Packers and Printers Private Limited– which is suspected to have entered into benami deals for purchase of a farm house in Delhi’s Bijwasan area. Certain other property deals were also under the scanner of the taxman, they had said.
The department is expected to slap provisions of the newly-enacted Benami Transactions Act, 1988, which became operational from November 1 last year, in this case. The law provides for a maximum punishment of seven years in jail and a fine. The action under the new law will be over and above the legal proceedings under the Income Tax Act, 1961, which relates to charges of domestic tax evasion.
Benami properties are those in which the real beneficiary is not the one in whose name the property has been purchased. Tax department officials had said Lalu’s kin held some of the properties under their scanner in a ‘benami’ way.
The RJD chief, however, had sought to put up a brave face after the raids, saying he was “not scared at all” and will continue to fight against “fascist forces”. “BJP mein himmat nahi hai ki Lalu ki awaz ko daba sake… Lalu ki awaz dabayenge to desh bhar me karoron Lalu khare ho jayenge… Main gidarbhabhki se nahi darne wala hoon (BJP does not have the courage to stifle my voice… If it tries to silence one Lalu, crores of Lalu will come forward. I am not scared of empty threats),” he had said in a series of tweets after the search operation.
The BJP had also accused Lalu, Bharti and his two sons Tejashwi and Tej Pratap, both ministers in the Bihar government, of involvement in corrupt land deals worth over Rs 1,000 crore, and asked the central government to probe one such transaction in Delhi.
Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had alleged that these transactions were a case of “quid pro quo”, suggesting that money was paid in return for favour, as they dated back to the period when Lalu was the railway minister, and dared Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to take action against him.
Lalu’s RJD is a constituent of Bihar’s ruling coalition led by Kumar. Lalu’s official residence was the address of the owners of the firms allegedly floated by his family members, Ravi Shankar Prasad had said.