Govt scuttling probe in Rs 130 cr scam: Lokayukta

Slamming the state government for trying to `scuttle' an inquiry into a Rs 130 crore scam allegation, Delhi Lokayukta Justice Manmohan Sarin on Friday issued a notice seeking complete details of transactions related to the case by February 13.

The notice was sent to Deputy Secretary-II (Finance) and is over a complaint that the government suffered a loss of nearly Rs 130 crore in Value Added Tax, allegedly because of collusion between VAT Commissioner, Additional Commissioner, VAT and an advocate working for power distribution company, Reliance Energy Limited. The anonymous complainant also named Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit's sister Rama Dhawan in the case which refers to a 2006 assessment of tax liability for the discom.

When the ombudsman first asked Principal Secretary (Finance) to given his comments on the allegations, the Finance Department replied that the matter did not fall under the jurisdiction of the  Lokayukta. The department's letter argued that the Lokayukta did not have the power to probe a government official. The Lokayukta's office insisted for details.

But the Finance Department continued refusing to provide information. “There is no justifiable reason to deny to this forum the information sought, which even a citizen can seek under the RTI Act, 2005. By persistently refusing to provide the information, for one or other untenable reason, the Finance Department is trying to scuttle the inquiry,” Justice Sarin has now said in his order.

Reliance Energy Limited had been levied with a tax liability of Rs 129.96 crore through an assessment order dated March 30, 2006, according to the complaint lodged with the Lokayukta.  After REL filed an appeal,  Additional Commissioner (III) referred the matter to the assessing authority in January 2008 to examine the transactions made by the company against the exemption certificates provided in agreement with the Delhi government.

After ten months, on an appeal filed by REL counsel Sushil Verma,  the additional commissioner reviewed his earlier order and held that the company was entitled to exemption from payment of sales tax. According to the allegation, the review was done in collusion with the REL advocate and Rs 20 crore had changed hands. The complainant also alleged involvement of  Rama Dhawan, the Chief Minister's sister. The Finance Department is with the Chief Minister.

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