If an employee of a firm takes time off from work to campaign during an election and is then paid for the period of his absence,should his salary for that period be added to the election expenditure of the candidate?
This is the subject of an unusual note sent last month by the Intelligence and Criminal Investigation wing of the Department of Income Tax to the Chief Election Commissioner regarding the election of Union Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath in 2009.
The I-T wing has asked the CEC for appropriate action as deemed fit, on the evidence it found,during a search of the business premises of M/s Raymond Limited in Kailash Nagar,Chhindwara (Naths constituency) in Madhya Pradesh. This was part of a nationwide search on November 3 last year at the premises of Raymond and of its promoters and executives in Mumbai,Thane,Vapi,Ratnagari,Jalgaon,Chennai and Bangalore.
The I-Ts argument is that the salaries of these employees,since they were campaigning and being paid,should be reflected in the candidates election expenditure.
This is totally new and uncovered ground, said the Election Commissions consultant and legal advisor S K Mendiratta. When contacted,CEC S Y Quraishi said: When some employees or workers want to campaign in their voluntary capacity,what can be done about it?
According to the note,the I-T search revealed that eight Raymond employees at the Kailash Nagar unit campaigned for Nath. The note quotes Vinod Padmanabhan,Director (Works),M/s Raymond Limited,as saying that on the request of Raymond Staff Association,attendances were granted to eight employees,out of 11 employees…for working for Mr Kamal Nath during the Lok Sabha Elections. He added: Kamal Nath is the Member of Parliament of Chhindwara constituency and M/s Raymond Ltd has no relationship as such with Shri Kamal Nath.
When contacted by The Indian Express,the companys official spokesperson said: Raymond Limited has a facility in Chhindwara,Madhya Pradesh. Employees from this facility in their individual capacity may have participated in election campaigns which is every Indian citizens fundamental right. The Income Tax authorities conducted a search operation on the Company. As a responsible corporate citizen,Raymond has been fully cooperating with the Income Tax authorities in their processes.
Despite repeated attempts,Nath was not available for comment but an aide of the Minister expressed surprise at the I-T query: People or workers are free to campaign and participate in the poll process. The Minister has nothing to do with this.