Lokayukta for review of Prez decision on minister

Refusing to close a case against Delhi minister Raj Kumar Chouhan, city Lokayukta on Thursday sought a review of a decision by President Pranab Mukherjee to reject its recommendation to sack Chouhan for alleged involvement in protecting a leading resort in a tax evasion case.

Lokayukta Justice Manmohan Sarin in a communication requested Mukherjee to review the earlier decision in the case by his predecessor Pratibha Patil or issue direction to table his report in Delhi Assembly.

The Lokayukta in February 2011 had recommended to the President to ‘withdraw her pleasure” for the minister to continue in office, holding him guilty of misconduct of “grave nature”.

In June 2011, Patil had rejected Lokayukta’s recommendation to sack Chouhan following which the anti-graft body had expressed disappointment over the decision saying such reverses are expected when moral values are sought to be enforced. When contacted, Chouhan termed the allegations as "totally baseless" and referred to rejection of the recommendation by Patil.

“Country’s highest office rejected the recommendation. I do not have to say anything after that. The allegations are totally baseless,” he said.

Justice Sarin's order had come in a case pertaining to Chauhan's alleged involvement in influencing a team of tax officials when they were carrying out a survey in the Tivoli Garden resort in South Delhi in February last year.

The Lokayukta order had said that "the minister made a telephone call to the Commissioner of Trade of Taxes in the evening of February 20, 2010 year when a team of tax officials were carrying search and survey at the premises of Tivoli Garden Resort to unearth huge evasion of taxes and concealment of income.”

Chauhan, in his defence had maintained that as public representative, he gets lots of calls from people requesting for favours and he only responded to such a call.

Before Patil took the decision to reject the Lokayukta recommendation, the home ministry had asked the Delhi government to file a report on the issue. In its report, the Delhi Government had dismissed the Lokayukta recommendation as 'pure assumption'.

In his order, the Lokayukta had said that the call was made to “curry favour and amounted to interference in discharge of statutory functions of the tax officials and was a penal offence under the statute and not a trivial matter”.

The Lokayukta had held it as a serious breach of norms of conduct and integrity expected of high public functionary as the minister.

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