After sending summons to the Indian National Congress, the Income Tax Department has, for the first time, sent missives for personal appearance to Congress treasurer Ahmed Patel for alleged undeclared party collections and election expenses totaling over Rs 550 crore.
The summons come after searches by the IT Department on April 2, 2019, in 52 places including several locations in Madhya Pradesh as well as on October 2019 and February 2020 in Hyderabad, Vijayawada, and other locations.
A total of six employees of the Congress party, residing in different cities, were among those who were subjected to searches during the April 2019 and October 2019 operations.
On February 6, 2020, 40 locations were covered during the searches linked mostly to infrastructure company Megha Engineering Infrastructure Limited and on February 11, the summons was sent to Patel for his personal appearance on February 14. A second summons has also been sent to him.
Confirming the receipt of the summons, Patel told The Indian Express that he has been unwell and busy with Parliamentary work and that one of the two summons was sent to him on his Parliament email. He said, “Such contributions are received by every political party and I will respond to the summons soon, probably after the upcoming Parliament session.”
Finance Ministry officials said that the summons to the Congress Treasurer had been sent since the party had sent only junior officials before them in response to summons sent earlier to the party in October 2019 and since the alleged violations had become bigger after the Hyderabad searches where “contributions” to the tune of Rs 170 crore had been detected.
The summons to Patel had been sent under Section 131 of the Income Tax Act for alleged violations of Section 13A which deals with exemptions for political parties with conditions.
As reported earlier (The Indian Express, May 24, 2019), in the pre-election swoop in Bhopal, Indore, Goa and New Delhi, the Income Tax Department said it had collected evidence of various Madhya Pradesh Government Departments giving cash donations to the Congress party for use in the 2019 General Election as well as transfer of cash to the tune of Rs 20 crore allegedly from the residence of Congress leader Kamal Nath to the All India Congress Committee (AICC) headquarters. The Election Commission received a copy of the IT investigation report and their recommendation for an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation was sent to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT).
The total calculation of violations of provisions of Section 13A has been pegged at around Rs 400 crore, details of which have been given to the party in the first set of summons sent in October 2019.
In the case of the additional receipts to the party from persons searched in Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Cuddapah, Visakhapatnam and Delhi on February 6, 2020, the IT Department alleged it had detected siphoning of more than Rs 2,000 crore and a part of this had been paid to the Congress party.
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