Millennium Post

Did Birla, Sahara make massive payments to prominent BJP, Congress politicians?

 Prominent Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress politicians allegedly received massive payments from the Sahara Group and an Aditya Birla Group company in 2013-14 and 2012, according to a set of documents in a pending writ petition filed by Common Cause.

Advocate and activist Prashant Bhushan is the counsel for the petitioners. The allegations over payouts to politicians made in the application, filed on Tuesday, have been cited by Bhushan as proof of KV Chowdary’s unsuitability for the post of CVC. The application alleges that he did not pursue the matter in his earlier job as head of the income tax department when junior officials first unearthed evidence of wrongdoing.

The 2015 petition against the appointment of the central vigilance commissioner (CVC) and the vigilance commissioner is currently pending in the Supreme Court.

The Sahara payments were allegedly made to well-known political leaders. Among the entries against which large sums of money are listed are the ‘CMs’ of Gujarat, Delhi, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh in 2013-14. 

Common Cause’ s application calls for a probe into the sizeable set of documents allegedly seized by the income tax department and the Central Bureau of Investigation during a search operation of Hindalco Industries’ offices in 2013 and a raid of Sahara India group offices in Delhi and Noida in late 2014.

The alleged payments made to politicians, for reasons not immediately known, are detailed in the form of Excel sheets and cryptically-worded emails in these documents.

Bhushan has alleged that both the CBI and the income tax department buried serious evidence of corruption against prominent politicians. He said that the documents recovered during the CBI raids on Sahara group (2014) and Birla group (2013) show that the corporates may have paid bribes – running into crores – to politicians in exchange for various favours, which are presently unknown.

The activist-advocate, who claims to have got the documents from unnamed whistle-blowers, filed the application on behalf of petitioners Common Cause on Tuesday to seek the Supreme Court’s intervention in the matter. 

Talking to media, he said, “Ideally, the CBI should have investigated the contents of the documents found in its raids. Instead, it handed over the sensitive information to the income tax department, which quietly buried the matter.”

In their writ petition last year, Common Cause had alleged that the appointment of Chowdary as the CVC was “illegal and arbitrary”. 

Chowdary was the chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes, the apex body of the income tax department, during the time the CBI handed over the documents to the IT department. 

Immediately after his retirement from the post, he was appointed as the CVC and also as an advisor to the special investigation team that the Modi government constituted to probe black money sources. Interestingly, he became the first Indian Revenue Service officer to hold the office of CVC – a position usually given to Indian Administrative Service officers.
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