has slapped a notice on Amar Singh's wife
NEW DELHI: The income-tax department has slapped a notice on Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh's wife Pankaja Kumari Singh, and is preparing one to be served on him.
The development may further fan the Congress-SP feud. The notice asking Pankaja to declare all properties and assets acquired over the past six years, was delivered to the SP leader's Greater Kailash residence two days ago.
She has been given a week to personally appear before the joint director of income-tax investigation at his Jhandewalan office in the capital, failing which action will be taken against her and penalties imposed.
The move comes just when Singh and UP chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav have locked horns with Congress over I-T notices to Amitabh Bachchan and his wife, SP MP Jaya Bachchan.
Considering that it followed a petition by a Congressman Vishwanath Chaturvedi in the Supreme Court asking for an I-T investigation into the "disproportionate" wealth of Mulayam Singh Yadav and his kin, it can provide fuel to SP's campaign against what its leaders have called state-sponsored vendetta.
Chaturvedi's petition was
accepted by SC giving taxmen the go-ahead to square assets of UP chief
minister and his kin with their declared income When asked to comment on
the I-T notices, the SP general secretary was nonchalant. He said his wife
had already replied to the notice by giving her PAN number and telephone
number of their lawyer so that they could get in touch with him for any
clarification they might need.
Bachchans face 37 income
The provocation for the flare up came as information trickled out that it was not just Big B, but his wife, Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan, who has been at the receiving end of a spate of notices from the taxmen.
Coming just after the spat between the I-T department and the movie legend over the notices served on him on the basis of newspaper reports, news of about a dozen notices against the SP MP sparked protests from party workers and Amitabh fans and led Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav to launch a frontal assault on Sonia Gandhi. "Yeh Dilli ki malkin karwa rahi hai "(All this is happening at the instance of the ruler of Delhi.)
The CM took no names, but the allusion was clear enough for Congress to launch a swift retaliation. "Though Samajwadi Party is a political outfit, it has been functioning as the propaganda machinery of one individual assessee," remarked party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi.
More significant, discarding the restraint it had so far practiced, Congress also targeted Bachchan himself. The leading actor was accused of using SP to hide things by pre-empting investigation. "Bachchan who is fully capable, does not challenge in court the I-T notices, but the Samajwadi Party makes it an issue of a daily political drama. This raises the question: Is it to pre-empt inquiries or to hide something?"
The unusually sharp response showed a new determination on the part of the party to stare down the charge that it was behind the I-T "overdrive" against the Bachchans. Congress had so far refrained from attacking the Bachchans even though it is quite some time since the Gandhis and Bachchans drifted apart. Given the certainty that party's first-ever direct salvo was cleared at the highest level, it marked a new low in the ties.
Mounting criticism from SP and others also forced the I-T department to deny reports of harassment. With protests outside his office in Mumbai, I-T Chief Commissioner H Tulsiyan said: "We are not here to harass anyone. If notices have been issued to anyone, the concerned person has to reply to them while the law will take its own course." He refused to take queries on the specific case.
"We do make inquiries for suspect I-T defaulters in normal course of our functioning but we certainly don't target anyone," he said.
Taking into account the dozen notices slapped on Jaya Bachchan, whose disqualification from Rajya Sabha was also seen by SP in terms of the estranged equations with Congress leadership, the leading Bollywood family has so far received 37 notices in the last three months. The taxmen are seeking to reopen assessment returns of the Bachchans for past 17 years. Abhishek Bachchan has also been served with notices, family sources said. The I-T notices to Jaya seek to open all her tax assessments since 1988 when she was director of Lotus Investment. Jaya quit the directorship in 1998 and started filing I-T returns as an individual. The returns she filed after 1998 as an individual are also under the scanner for re-assessment.
It all started with the notice I-T authorities served her in April, seeking clarifications on the gift of bungalow 'Jalsa' after a report in a tabloid. Just after that, tax officials, according to sources close to the Bachchans, seized on a report in a tabolid to ask Amitabh whether he had gifted a pair of sunglasses worth Rs 2.77 lakh to the director of his coming film, Zamaanat.
Between 1988-98, sources said Jaya's tax liability was assessed at Rs 2.35 crore. The move for reassessment of returns for the past 17 years by I-T Central Circle in Mumbai has been justified by citing what tax department calls "definite information" lapses by her.
Normally, review of tax returns do not go beyond six years which in this case will go up to April 1, 1999. The rules, however, provide exceptions for those accounts which have figured in some investigation or have been raided, and in cases where tribunals have set aside assessments.
As her assessments have been put in the Central circle, Jaya's file is under constant monitoring and scrutiny.
Family sources claim that the Bachchan family is a high tax payer unit from the Bollywood. Big B himself is highest taxpayer in his family, with a yearly payment of around Rs 7 crore. Abhishek pays between Rs 4-5 crore and Jaya around Rs 50-60 lakh. Abhishek's income has gone up substantially in the last three years before which he fell in the same tax bracket as his mother.
Mulayam Singh Yadav told reporters that Congress was targeting his party out of vindictiveness. "This is a political clash and Congress is treating SP as a personal enemy," he said.
Protests against I-T department were reported from across the country in Mumbai and Amitabh's birthplace Allahabad as fans vented their ire at I-T authorities for "victimising" the Bachchans. Wearing Amitabh Bachchan T-shirts and dark glasses, fans held a sit-in outside the I-T office in South Mumbai. SP workers organised protests on Monday in Allahabad, Kolkata and Lucknow. Earlier, arson at tax office was reported from Allahabad.
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