In the last two days we’ve reported on the astonishing details emerging out of the Sahara and Aditya Birla Group diaries, whose entries revealed payments of crores made to ‘CM Gujarat,’ ‘Modi ji,’ ‘CM MP,’ ‘CM Chhattisgarh’ and ‘Shaina NC Ji.’
While the Birla diary mentioned a payment of Rs 25 crore (see below) to ‘Gujarat CM (12 Done-rest?),’ documents seized from Sahara premises were even more incriminating as revealed by Janta Ka Reporter.
On page 89 of the Sahara diary, the Income Tax department’s appraisal report mentions at least eight payments made to ‘Modi ji’ in Ahmedabad via one, ‘Jaiswal ji.’
These payments, totalling Rs 40.10 crore, were made to ‘Modi ji’ by ‘Jaiswal ji’ between 30 October 2013 and 21 February 2014. By then Modi was already the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate and had launched the campaign for the Lok Sabha elections.
On the same page, there are entries of others significant payments made to ‘CM MP,’ ‘CM Chhattisgarh’ and ‘CM Delhi.’
‘CM MP’ was paid Rs 10 crore in two installments through one ‘Neeraj Vashisht’ while payment of Rs 4 crore to ‘CM Chhattisgarh’ was made by ‘Nandi ji.’
‘CM Delhi’ received Rs 1 crore by same ‘Jaiswal’ who had made payment of Rs 40.1 crore to ‘Modi ji’ and ‘CM Gujarat’ on 23 September 2013.
On page 90 of the report, a list of similar payments are outlined, but here ‘Modi ji’ is stated as ‘CM Gujarat’ while the person, who made these payments remained ‘Jaiswal ji.’
On Page 91, other names include one ‘Shaina ji NC,’ who was paid through ‘Uday Ji.’ ‘Ms Shaina NC ji’ is stated to have been paid Rs 4 crore. According to the documents, ‘Shaina ji NC’ was paid Rs 4 crore in four installment between 28 August 2013 and 20 January 2014.
Page 92 has the list of several names, who are yet to be paid their promised amount. The sheet also has a line, which says, ‘Shania NC/Chief of BJP- ask her to help from A.(Advocate) General to withdrawal(close) Bombay case.’
Sahara and Birla were raided in October 2013 and November 2014 respectively. The tax authorities were carrying out an investigation when, all of a sudden, the man at the helm of the probe, KB Chowdary, was made the head of the Chief Vigilance Commission. This, according to the Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan, was Narendra Modi government’s first attempt to scuttle the probe.
As expected, Bhushan challenged his appointment.
Meanwhile, Sahara had already approached the Income Tax Settlement Commission.
But the question is; why did Sahara choose to approach the Settlement Commission as opposed to challenging the allegations against the company in the court of law.
Income tax experts feel that had Sahara opted for the legal route because the process of going through the tribunal and appeals in lower court to the Supreme Court would have lasted for years. This would have meant that income tax authorities needed to retain all the seized documents, which had incriminating evidence against the powerful leaders.
One senior IT officer told Janta Ka Reporter on the condition of anonymity, “This would have kept the noose hanging over those whose names appeared in the diary. It was in the interest of both Sahara and the leaders, mentioned in the diary, to have these documents destroyed.”
So, how do they destroy documents, already in IT department’s possession?
Income Tax Settlement Commission
Set up in 1976, Income Tax Settlement Commission allows a ‘one-time tax evader or an unintending defaulter to make clean breast of his affairs.’
This is what the Settlement Commission’s website states on its existing provision, “The settlement mechanism allows taxpayers to disclose additional Income before it over and above what has been already disclosed before the Income tax Department. The applicant has to pay full amount of tax and interest on the additional income disclosed before the Commission, before filing the application. The Commission then decides upon the admissibility of the application and in case of admitted applications, carries out the process of settlement in a time bound manner by giving opportunity to both parties.”
The commission has ‘wide power of granting immunity from Penalty and prosecution’ and ‘most crucially, the ‘orders passed by the Commission are final and conclusive.’
In essence, its order can’t be challenged in the court of law.
The benefit of the settlement mechanism ‘can be availed by a taxpayer only once in life-time.’ With these benefits in mind, Sahara moved the Settlement Commission, which has reportedly concluded the final hearing and the verdict is imminent any time now.
Should the Settlement Commission rule in Sahara’s favour, the company has the right to ask for the documents seized from its premises back. Experts say that that this will provide Sahara an opportunity to destroy the documents, leaving no trace for the future.
On 25 October this year, Bhushan wrote to all investigating agencies including the Chief Vigilance Commissioner and the two retired judges heading the Special Investigating Team on black money about bribery details stated in Sahara diaries.
Curiously, two days later, Jagran newspaper carried the central government’s plans to do away with Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes and introduce new Rs 2,000 note.
According to sources, the CVC allegedly alerted Union Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley about the complaint filed by Bhushan. Jaitley, in turn, warned Modi about Sahara kickback details getting wide publicity.
Bhushan said, “Clearly, my complaint to CVC and SIT caused trepidation among the establishment. They were really worried not only about this information being in possession of others but also that complaints had now been filed to ensure no hush up was done in the probe as revelations were just too serious.”
Government insiders said that whilst the Modi government had planned to launch the demonetisation sometime early next year, his decision to announce the measure so soon left many senior leaders in the government surprised.
On 8 November, Bhushan wrote to the Settlement Commission reminding them about the seriousness of the revelation in the Sahara diaries. He requested the commission not to show any immunity in the matter.
The letter turned out to be the real ‘catalyst’ and reportedly spurred Modi to immediately do something ‘big’ to divert attention.
Bhushan said, “Since this government is very good at diverting attention, it took refuge in demonetisation on this occasion because it allowed Modi to take a moral high ground on the issue of black money. He felt that after his announcement on demonetisation, it will be difficult for people to question him on the Sahara allegations.”
Modi allegedly decided to go ahead with the demonetisation plan the same day Bhushan wrote to the Settlement Commission even though banks had ‘extremely insufficient’ cash and there was no adequate plan to calibrate the ATMs across the country. Hence the continuing chaos at banks across India.
All ‘BJP friends’ were allegedly alerted in time to dispose off their old notes to avoid ‘substantial losses’ following Modi’s announcement on 8 November. This explains why BJP’s West Bengal unit was allegedly in a ‘hurry’ to deposit Rs 1 crore into its Central Avenue branch the same day before the announcement was publicly made.
There are also reports that one BJP MP, who also owns a company that manages cash movement for ATMs and banks, paid his employees six months advance salary hours before the announcement on demonetisation.
The central government has been condemned for its inability to deal with the fallout of the demonetisation announcement.
Within a span of one week, the Modi government has had to change its directives several times. They first capped the exchange limit for old notes to Rs 4,000 but was soon forced to increase it to Rs 4,500. However, just couple of days later, it reversed its own decision by reducing the limit from Rs 4,500 to Rs 2,000.
It was only after Modi had made the announcement that his government came up with the idea to apply indelible ink on those who had exchanged their old notes once.
It was also after 47 people had died that the government increased the weekly withdrawal limit to Rs 24,000 for everyone and Rs 25,000 for farmers.
The government finds itself in an utter mess largely due to no planning into a decision of such magnitude. Had they stuck to their original plan of launching the measure next year, most of the present mess may have been avoided. But, it seems, the government was indeed in a hurry to go ahead with this monumental move allegedly to divert people’s attention from incredibly serious charges of corruption.