As many as 98 MLAs and seven Lok Sabha MPs — whose assets witnessed manifold increase in a short span of time — are under investigation, the Central Board of Direct Taxes told the Supreme Court on Monday. In an affidavit filed in the top court on disproportionate assets of elected politicians, CBDT said preliminary assessment of assets of another 42 MLAs was being examined.
The petitioner had alleged substantial increase in assets of 26 Lok Sabha MPs, 11 Rajya Sabha MPs and 257 MLAs as reflected in election affidavits. Of the 257 MLAs, the CBDT said, 98 MLAs were found to have substantially increased assets and were being further probed.The Income Tax Department will further investigate assets of seven of 26 Lok Sabha MPs who had huge increase in assets, CBDT said, adding it has shared the probe status and result with regard to elected representatives with the Election Commission.No further probe has been taken up against any Rajya Sabha MP.
The CDBT is expected to submit the names of lawmakers under probe in a sealed cover on Tuesday to the top court which is seized of a PIL filed by Lok Prahari, an NGO, on disclosure of sources of income by the candidates when they file nomination for elections. The CBDT affidavit comes five days after a Bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar had asked the Centre to furnish the details of the probe against lawmakers whose income shot up manifold within a short span of time.
The Bench had expressed strong displeasure over the government not sharing with it details of a probe being conducted by CBDT against politicians and said the agency must place a fresh affidavit before it by 10.30 am on September 12. “The affidavit you have filed is not even worth the piece of paper it’s written on…When an affidavit was placed before this court, all information about any inquiry going on should be placed,” it had said.“The information in CBDT affidavit is not complete. Is this the attitude of the Government of India? What have you done till now?” the Bench had asked.
According to Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) that works for electoral reforms, assets of four current Lok Sabha MPs have increased by 12 times while 22 others declared five-fold increase in their assets.A newly-elected Rajya Sabha MP declared an asset growth of over 21 times since his last affidavit. Seven other newly-elected Rajya Sabha MPs have declared two-fold asset increase, ADR — an intervenor in the case – said.
While filing their nomination papers, candidates were disclosing their assets, assets of their spouse, children and other dependents, but they do not reveal the sources of income, SN Shukla of Lok Prahari contended.The petitioner wants inclusion of a column in the nomination form to list details of a candidate’s sources of income.
During the last hearing, the Centre’s counsel had asserted that the government was all for electoral reforms, saying, “The Swachh Bharat (Abhiyan) is not only about cleaning of garbage…it’s also about free and fair election…cleaning of the electoral system.”But the Bench was not impressed. “The government is saying they are not averse to some reform.
Necessary information should be there on record (in the court).” The Election Commission has supported the NGO’s plea, saying disclosure of sources of income was necessary for “healthier democracy.”Under the current law, a candidate is required to disclose details of assets and liabilities for self, spouse and three dependents in Form 26 at the time of filing of nomination paper but not the source of income.