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THE HT EDITORIAL -Time to rein in the tax authorities The flurry of raids has dented the credibility of the agencies

April 18, 2019 06:22 AM


Time to rein in the tax authorities
The flurry of raids has dented the credibility of the agencies
There are three rational explanations for the unprecedented wave of tax raids and action from investigation agencies against prominent leaders of the opposition parties.One, this is just taxmen and investigation agencies doing their job on the basis of tip-offs (from reliable sources and which seem substantive), and there is nothing untoward about them. Two, it is someone in the tax department or the agencies trying to curry favour with the establishment of the day in the hope that it will be voted back to power and remember their service gratefully. Three, it is the government of the day, acting against its political opponents in election season in the hope that it will disrupt the opponents’ plans.

In the most egregious case of them all, a raid on Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader Kanimozhi’s house a day before the Tamil Nadu polls turned up nothing at all.

If it is the first (and only a charitable explanation would ascribe the wave of raids to that), then the timing is strange. As is the fact that almost all the action has been aimed at leaders of opposition parties. The Telugu Desam Party, the Trinamool Congress, the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the AMMK, the Indian National Congress, apart from the DMK, have been targeted. No major Bharatiya Janata Party leader, nor indeed, leaders of any of its allies, have been targeted by the Income Tax department, the Central Bureau of Investigation, or the Enforcement Directorate. No Indian parliamentary election has been preceded by such intense activity of raids and probes that have further dented the credibility of the tax department and the agencies — they have always been perceived as tools the government of the day uses against its opponents.

If it is the second — none of the agencies are beyond adventurism — the government needs to rein the tax department and the agencies in. The Election Commission (EC), which seems to have discovered its teeth and the wide-ranging powers at its command after censure from the Supreme Court, should also act. Its earlier directive to the taxman on raids didn’t elicit a positive response from the revenue department, but that was before the commission discovered its muscle. The EC could, and should, insist that such action happens only if it is entirely necessary, and assure itself that there is enough reason. This will ensure that legitimate raids and investigations — there have been some, even among the current crop — can continue. This is important, especially because it is no one’s argument that black money continue to be used in elections.

And if it is the third, then there’s nothing to be said about it, except that, in politics, what goes around usually comes around

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