Congress wants 'free, fair, independent' probe into Sahara diaries

Congress wants 'free, fair, independent' probe into Sahara diaries

Congress today demanded a "free, fair and independent" investigation into the 'Sahara diaries' alleging that the matter was being "hushed up" by the government even though bribery charges have been made against some politicians.

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala sought to pick holes in the Income Tax Settlement Commission (ITSC) order granting immunity to Sahara group from prosecution and penalty.

The purported diaries were recovered from the business house following raids conducted in November 2014 listing the alleged pay-offs to politicians.

"Modiji claimed that he was a watchman of country's trust and treasure chest. Shocking and scandalous facts in 'Birla' and 'Sahara' papers now require an independent investigation.

"We want that the Prime Minister's credibility should never be in doubt. He should not be worried about ordering an independent probe," he said.

Surjewala alleged that the 'Sahara Group' appears to have gained a concession of not paying income tax on the income of Rs 1,910 crore and received complete immunity from penalty and prosecution.

Raising a number of questions, he said the Modi government should answer as to how the Commission could settle the entire matter of Sahara papers in only 16 days and why it was in a "tearing hurry" to close this entire Sahara issue.

"It is time that Prime Minister Narendra Modi answers these questions to people of India," he said.

"Shockingly, the entire case against Sahara Group is now being sought to be closed in a hush hush and conspiratorial manner with startling speed. This further indicates that Modi Government has 'something to hide' and is in an alarming hurry to brush the entire matter under the carpet," the Congress leader said. 

Surjewala alleged that the entire matter of Sahara papers has been settled by Income Tax Settlement Commission in only 16 days in three hearings on October 25, November 4 and November 7, 2016, with judgement delivered on November 10.

He further alleged that of these 16 days, four were holidays and effectively, from hearing to decision, Sahara Papers have been settled in 12 days.

"There has to be a probe that does not fall within the precincts of government and where the probe can only really be termed as neutral, independent, free and fair," he said.

The Congress leader said the Sahara Group has filed a revised income tax return after the raid and disclosed an extra income of Rs 1,217 crore which was not disclosed earlier and even the Income Tax Settlement Commission proceeded to calculate taxable income of Rs 1,910.76 crore.

He claimed papers filed by Sahara group companies disclosed a total expense of merely Rs 9.7 crore for 2009-10 to 2012-13 and the IT Settlement Commission permitted it operational expenses of Rs 1,956.50 crore between 2009-10 to 2014-15.

"Net effect is to give 100 per cent concession on the taxable income of Rs 1,910 crore found after the Sahara raid and disclosed by computer record, Excel sheet and papers.

"The simple point is why was Sahara group permitted to claim expenses of 150 to 200 times the original amount filed with Registrar of Companies? Why was Sahara group permitted to claim concession on undisclosed income in this fashion?

"What is the underlying reason for showing such benevolence to an industrial house, which has been caught with unaccounted cash and papers reflecting non-disclosure of income running into a few thousand crores?" he asked.

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