Cobrapost unearths data showing 194 Indian law makers from across the political spectrum, including 6 former chief ministers and 10 sitting ministers, faked their PAN details while reporting their income to the Election Commission. Among these honourables are 72 from Congress and 41 BJP, while almost all parties share this honour. Experts believe it may be just another ruse to hide the exponential rise in their income between elections and to evade tax.
In a revealing analysis of about 2000 affidavits sworn before the Election Commission of India (ECI) by politicians across 23 states for fighting elections between 2006 and 2016, Cobrapost has found 194 politicians faking their Permanent Account Number (PAN) details. Under Indian law, a candidate is mandated to make due disclosures of criminal cases against him, and conviction if any, and his financial status. Candidates are required to disclose their income and assets by duly quoting their PAN issued by the Income Tax Department. Concealment of the same may invite disqualification under Section 125(A)(3) of the Representation of the People Act 1951 after a candidate is elected to the legislature. Section 139A(7) of the Income Tax Act 1961, on the other hand, clearly holds that “No person who has already been allotted a permanent account number under the new series shall apply, obtain or possess another permanent account number.” Of late, there has been a growing concern over such falsification of information with the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) investigating more than 100 lawmakers at the behest of the ECI. Even the Supreme Court of India has expressed concern over the use of forged PAN by millions of Indians, including law makers.
The analysis throws up some interesting facts. For instance, the Election Commission does not verify the PAN details disclosed by candidates in their affidavits. In most cases, either of the two different PANs quoted is non-existent. It means the Income Tax Department never issued the PANs in question. In cases where the same PAN has been quoted in two election years, the said PAN was found non-existent.
Of the total 194 deviations in PAN details, there are as many as 6 former chief ministers, 10 sitting ministers, 8 former ministers and 54 sitting and 102 former members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) who have falsified their PAN details. Leaders of as many as 29 big and small political parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Indian National Congress, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal (United) (JD(U)), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Hindustani Awami Morcha (S) among others, are involved in this duplicity. The BJP has featured a total of 41 times on the list, while the Congress leads the pack of dubious PANs with 72 leaders providing erroneous details. With 26 cases of incorrect reporting by politicians, Uttar Pradesh leads the pack. While Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Assam have thrown up, respectively, 17, 15 and 13 cases, Uttarakhand has 14, Himachal Pradesh 12 and Rajasthan 11. Among the 41 BJP leaders to have faked PAN details, there are 13 incumbent and 14 ex-MLAs, 9 ministers, 1 Depute Speaker, 1 ex-minister, 1 ex-Chief Minister and 1 governor. The Congress has 13 MLAs, 48 ex-MLAs, 1 minister, 5 ex-ministers, 4 Chief Ministers, 1 Deputy Speaker. The SP has 1 incumbent and 11 ex-MLAs, the BSP has 1 incumbent and 7 ex-MLAs and the JD(U) has 3 MLAs, 1 ex-MLA, 1 ex-minister and 1 ex-MP in this list.
After randomly examining the poll affidavits filed by politicians in between two election years 2006 and 2016, we verified their PAN details on the web site run by the Income Tax Department. We found either of the two different PANs quoted by these politicians in their poll affidavits filed for two election years non-existent.
We would like to put it on record that nowhere in this story do we claim all 194 politicians who have been found to have misrepresented their PAN details in their affidavits to the ECI have done so deliberately. Maybe out of human error there have been some erroneous entries, but it is hard to believe that all of them would have done so.
The falsification of PAN details, in most cases, has been done by changing a digit here and there, probably to look like the original one and avoid immediate detection, and perhaps to take the defence that is an intentional typo. Experts believe that falsifying PAN details by politicians is a ruse to hide the exponential rise in their incomes, by not so legit means, and to evade tax. Another interesting fact that has emerged from this analysis is that some of the politicians involved in dodging the authorities have criminal cases pending against them.
The data collated and analyzed by Cobrapost reveals big names. These include former Assam Chief Ministers Tarun Gogoi and Bhumidhar Barman, former Chief Minister of Bihar Jitan Ram Manjhi and and former Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh Virbhadra Singh. Apart from these leaders, several sitting state and central government ministers, including Rajasthan minister Bina Kak, Bihar cabinet minister Nand Kishore Yadav, Maharashtra Minister for Public Works Department Deshmukh Vijaykumar, Haryana Minister for Women and Child Development Kavita Jain and Himachal Food, Civil Supplies and Consumers Affairs Minister Kishan Kapoor, have been found to have falsified PANs in their declarations of income and assets to the ECI.
As our analysis reveals, there appears a direct correlation between the false disclosures and the growth in the income levels of many politicians, sometimes jumping manifold between two elections while their tax disclosures have become weaker, hiding more than they reveal. As controversies abound round their growing assets and wealth, experts say, they have resorted to this tactic which reflects in changes made to their PANs. Maybe some are using duplicate PANs, which is a common phenomenon, say some higher Income Tax officials, often used to evade tax, seek fresh credit and in most cases launder illicit gains into shell companies.
The cases picked by Cobrapost show a pattern in this behavior of our political class. For instance, three-time former Chief Minister of Assam and six-time Lok Sabha MP Tarun Gogoi has quoted two different PANs. According to the affidavit filed with the ECI for 2006 assembly elections, Gogoi had a PAN with number ACOPG06834, which did not exist, but in the next elections held in 2011 the Congress leader quoted a different PAN ACOPG0683M. However, the Gogoi family witnessed a phenomenal rise in their fortunes during the period between these two elections.
Their declared assets included immovable property worth Rs. 3.65 crore and movable assets over Rs. 35 lakh in 2011 elections. Contrast this to 2006 when Gogoi had reported a total income of Rs. 5,92,580, as shown in his income tax returns, with movable assets of Rs 35.25 lakh, including among others, Rs. 14.77 lakh in the State Bank of India Guwahati branch, Rs. 3.91 lakh in the Daryaganj branch of Indian Overseas Bank in New Delhi, Rs. 11,920 in SBI Parliament Street branch in New Delhi.
While declaring his assets in 2006 assembly elections, Gogoi’s predecessor and seven-time MLA Bhumidhar Barman had entered ACBPD0559N for his PAN which we found non-existing. In the next elections, we find him to have quoted a different PAN ACBPB0559N. Former Bihar Chief Minister and member of the Bihar Legislative Assembly since 1980 Jitan Ram Manjhi has misrepresented his PAN details. In his affidavit sworn before the ECI, Manjhi quoted his PAN as AKTPM06424H in 2010 elections, but he had a different PAN AKTPM0642H to swear by in 2015 elections. We found his PAN AKTPM06424H to be not existing.
For Prem Kumar Dhumal, former Chief Minister of Himachal and BJP leader, falsifying PAN details is as much cosher. He quoted PAN AAKTD99648, which does not exist, in his affidavit to become eligible for fighting 2007 state Assembly elections. But in the elections held five years later, he found it convenient to quote a different PAN AAKPD9964E. Dhumal has five criminal cases pending against him under Sections 188, 186, 143, 499 and 500 of the IPC.
However, the most curious case is that of five-time BJP MLA and four-time minister Kishan Kapoor from Himachal Pradesh. While filing affidavit declaring his income and assets before the 2007 state assembly elections, the senior BJP leader quoted his PAN as AFYPK8382G, but in the next assembly elections we find him in possession of a different PAN AFUPK8382G which is found to be non-existent. Interestingly, the minister is accused of indulging in not only in fraud but also in criminal behavior. In October 2013, Kapoor was booked by the Himachal Pradesh Vigilance and Anti-corruption Bureau, upon a high court order, under the Prevention of Corruption Act for fraudulently allotting a prime residential plot to his wife. As Urban Development Minister in the Dhumal government he then headed the Himachal Pradesh Housing and Urban Development Authority. Kapoor has nine criminal cases of serious nature, including kidnapping, wrongful confinement, rioting, criminal conspiracy and criminal intimidation, charged under Sections 171, 365, 147, 149, 342, 120B, 171, 506, 34 and 341. Kapoor’s former cabinet colleague Khimi Ram too falsified PAN details. Like her party colleagues, BJP leader and cabinet minister from Haryana Kavita Jain has quoted two PANs – AASPJ1161D and ACSPJ1161D. The first PAN, AASPJ1161D, was found non-existent.
The case of former Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh and senior-most leader of the Congress in Himachal Virbhadra Singh is no different when it comes to making false declarations before the ECI. While swearing affidavit for 2007 elections, Singh had a PAN ALPRS6513N, which was replaced by another PAN ALRPS6513N in 2012. We found his earlier PAN ALPRS6513N to be non-existent. The four-time Chief Minister, seven-time MLA and five-time member of Parliament (MP) too has been accused of laundering money to the tune of Rs. 7 crore by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), with the Special Judge finding prima facie merit in the charges labeled against him by the ED. In addition, the Congress leader, and his wife, has also been charge-sheeted by the CBI in a disproportionate assets case.
To read the report in detail, click here.
(We’ve reproduced an abridged version of this Cobrapost report with permission)