For the first time, the Income Tax department has launched a drive to cleanse dirty money from politics and initiated action against at least 300 high networth politicians for alleged misreporting of wealth in their yearly returns, the Times of India reports.
It's an interesting strategy.
In India, your tax returns are confidential and (arguably) exempt from Right to Information requests. But thanks to the pioneering work of National Election Watch, all pols have to submit their assets (and pending criminal cases) when they file their papers to run for office. Apparently, the knowledge that this information will be scrutinized by the press and public prompts them to be more honest than they are with the tax man. And that may lead to a crackdown on corruption.
The measures were taken following a prod from the Election Commission (EC) which wanted the department to match I-T returns with the statement of assets declared by candidates in their affidavits. The election watchdog had found alleged misuse of political funds by some netas and their outfits besides allegations of disproportionate assets accumulated by others.
The government had refused to divulge names of politicians against whom action had been initiated. Anil Bairwal of the Association for Democratic Reforms, who had been campaigning for disclosing the names of politicians against whom action has been initiated, said his RTI queries had not been considered by the I-T department. Whatever had come out was the result of 12 letters that EC sent to CBDT between May 2004 and June 2008, seeking updates on its investigation. ADR had obtained copies of the communication.