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Cancel AAP's party status for filing false audits, I-T dept tells EC

The Income Tax department asked the Election Commission on Thursday to cancel the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) status as a political party for allegedly filing “false and fabricated” audit reports on donations amounting to Rs 27 crore, highly-placed sources told HT.

The department’s report to the poll panel came two days before assembly elections in Punjab and Goa, where the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP is making a serious bid to capture power.

The AAP is in power in Delhi where it won the assembly elections in 2015 with a brute majority.

The I-T department said the “false and fabricated” audit reports were filed in 2013-14 and 2014-15 and hence “the registration of AAP as a trust and as a party could be revisited and cancelled”. HT has accessed the contents of the six-page report.

The AAP dismissed the charges as “yet another dirty trick by the BJP just 48 hours before voting in Punjab and Goa”.

“They are trembling with fear because people in Punjab and Goa both are overwhelmingly voting for AAP and a humiliating defeat is staring at them in the face. They have pressed the panic button in desperation. People… will teach them a lesson by overwhelmingly pressing the ‘jharu’ (AAP’s poll symbol broom) button,” said Raghav Chadha, the party’s national treasurer.

The I-T report also came a day after Union finance minister Arun Jaitley government unveiled sweeping measures to clean up political funding in India, including limiting cash donations from an individual to Rs 2,000.

The report has details of discrepancies between the AAP’s statement to bank, what the party published on its website and filings with the Election Commission.

The department alleged that Rs 20.5 crore donations to AAP out of Rs 50.6 crore shown by the party in 2013-14 and Rs 6.5 crore in 2014-15 are from dubious sources.

The report said that 177 donors from a list of contributors shown in the AAP’s 2013-14 income tax filings were missing from a revised list submitted to the poll panel after the department began its probe. The list of donors included only those who contributed more than Rs 20,000 each.

The tax authorities also detected discrepancies in the identities of 874 donors named in the first and revised lists.

“…It was admitted by the treasurer of the party, vide his reply filed on 15.10.2016, that certain errors had been noticed in the contribution report” for 2013-14.

The tax authorities began probing AAP’s finances in 2015 after allegations of Rs 2 crore donation by four shell companies surfaced. It found that an income tax and sale tax practitioner, Deepak Aggarwal, was using these shell companies on commission.

Last week, the department had questioned Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo, Mayawati’s brother and his wife over their assets acquired since 2010.

Criminal lawyer, KTS Tulsi, however, said the request to cancel the AAP’s registration was not legally tenable.

“This will endanger democracy. It should be proved in a court of law. The person who has filed a wrong declaration can be tried for cheating or various other offences,” he said.

The Election Commission can file an FIR against the party or the person,” he added.

Source: HindustanTimes