Unit to curb black money may die in infancy

As Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee prepares to make the likely move to Rashtrapati Bhavan,one of his pet projects,the Directorate of Income-Tax Criminal Investigation,is in danger of death in infancy

Written by Ajmer Singh | New Delhi | Published: June 21, 2012 12:30:26 am

As Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee prepares to make the likely move to Rashtrapati Bhavan,one of his pet projects,the Directorate of Income-Tax Criminal Investigation (DCI),is in danger of death in infancy.

The newly-created body intended to curb the generation and circulation of black money has failed to take off and,according to top officials of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT),is on the brink of collapse.

In February 2012,the DCI carried out high-profile raids on liquor baron Ponty Chadha,but recovered hardly any cash. The raids were an embarrassment for CBDT,and shortly afterward,its Member (Investigation) was transferred.

Despite repeated requests from the DCI,the CBDT has failed to provide suitable officers or staff to carry out searches and criminal investigation. Result: DCI,which is locked in a turf war with the amply-staffed Investigation wing of CBDT,has failed to conduct a single search in the current financial year.

The DCI brass is learnt to be peeved at getting virtually no cooperation from the 16 DGs of the Investigation wing,some of whom are understood to have approached a senior CBDT member last month in a “delegation”,where they expressed their apprehensions over the role,functioning and jurisdiction of the DCI. Till recently,tax administration in India had no separate set-up for targeted investigation into criminal cases. Searches and tax evasions issues were being handled by the Investigation wing of CBDT,spread all over the country,and headed by the DG (Investigation). All DGs report to the Member (Investigation) of the CBDT,which is part of the Ministry of Finance. The DCI is headed by a director-general (Criminal Investigation) based in New Delhi,who,too,reports to the Member (Investigation).

An internal note issued last month reveals the state of affairs in the DCI. The note,accessed by The Indian Express,described the creation of the DCI as a major step in the fight against black money,but said that the administration of the new unit was in “a bad situation (which) has become worse”.

The note said: “The ground reality is that no suitable staff or officers have been made available anywhere in the country. After the orders passed by Chief Commissioners in May 2012,a bad situation has become worse. Presently,no office of the DCI is equipped with even skeletal staff or officers.” The note advised: “Since the Department is duty bound to ensure that the Hon’ble FM’s statements before Parliament are honoured in letter and spirit,it is requested that immediate steps be taken to pose necessary staff and officers in the offices of the DCI to ensure that sufficient funds and suitable office premises are made available.”

It pointed out that the then CBDT chairman had,in September 2011,written to all CBDT units asking that “the best manpower and resources be made available to ensure that these directorates get off the ground and set a different benchmark of performance among public institutions in India”.

The notification for the creation of the DCA in the CBDT was issued on May 30,2011,mandating its functions in respect of criminal matters having financial implications,punishable as an offence under the direct tax law. The DCI,which has eight regional offices,seeks information about persons and transactions suspected to be involved in criminal activities with cross-border,inter-state,or international ramifications,which pose a threat to national security and are punishable.

CBDT spokesperson Anuja Sarangi was not available for a comment.

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