ED Case: Raghav Bahl Writes To Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman
Subject: Registering of ECIR, equivalent to an FIR under PMLA on the basis of prosecution complaints filed by IT department for alleged non-disclosure of the source of a sum of GBP 2.73 lakh paid towards the purchase of a property in London, for which adequate explanation and proof has already been submitted to IT that the amount of £2.73 lakh has come from the tax-paid income of my wife Ritu Kapur, and has been duly disclosed in her IT return.
Dear Nirmala ji,
I have been constrained to write this to you as an honest and law-abiding citizen of India, who is getting the sense of being hounded for doing no wrong despite paying all taxes honestly and diligently. I also have no defaults when it comes to the debt obligations of myself or my business concerns.
However, it seems to me that a scene straight out of Kafka’s famous novel ‘The Trial ’ is playing out in real life with me.
I have, as far back as 13 May, 2019, through my authorised representative, provided full details relating to the amount of GBP 2.73 lakh paid to buy a property in London. I clarified these details after the Income Tax Department claimed that I allegedly failed to disclose information about this payment, as a result of which they have presumed the amount to arise from proceeds of undisclosed income (black money), as per two show cause notices served to me by email in the afternoon of 1 May, 2019.
I was given only until 3:30 pm on 2 May, 2019 to answer the notices, and following an exchange of emails with the concerned officer, I provided a short factual reply to the authorities on 2 May, 2019 around 9:30 pm, in accordance with the officer’s instructions at 5:18 pm.
However, it seems this reply was not considered or even taken note of, and two complaints were registered before a court in Meerut on 3 May, 2019 itself (a clear violation of the principles of natural justice), which I only learnt of as a result of receiving an email questionnaire from another media house.
I am yet to receive any summons from the courts in relation to these complaints under Sections 50 and 51 of the Black Money Act 2015, and I was not provided any intimation of the first hearing, which was supposed to take place yesterday, 6 June, 2019 in Meerut. I also understand that the I-T Department did not appear before the Meerut court.
In light of the full disclosures made by me and my wife in our returns which address the legal issues in the notices, I have already challenged the show cause notices and subsequent acts in a writ petition before the Allahabad High Court, which will hear the matter on 25 June, 2019 after receiving reply from the I-T Department.
It now appears, again based on queries received from the same media house, that an ECIR has been registered on 3 June, 2019 against me by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in relation to these notices.
The media house had earlier reported that the ED was looking to obtain copies of the prosecution complaints from the I-T Department to register a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. Their sources for all this information are obviously selective leaks from the department concerned so I have no reason to believe what they say to be untrue, though, again, like with the action taken by the I-T Department, no summons have been served on me.
Now, it is my humble view that a very serious and troubling question arises in the circumstances. By the time the ED obtained a copy of these complaints, the I-T Department and concerned officers knew very well that the said complaints are absolutely wrong on material facts and aspects. At the very least, I had duly provided them with all materials and proofs necessary to dispel the limited allegations relating to the sum of GBP 2.73 lakh – I have annexed the relevant documentation to this letter as well, for your own perusal and consideration.
Was it then not the duty of the I-T Department, when providing copies of the complaints to the ED, to also pass along the material on record with them which categorically shows that pursuing this case would amount to a wild goose chase? Should the ED not be provided all relevant information before they get involved in a case, given the potential this would have for loss of liberty, risk to the fundamental rights, and the unfair harm to the reputation of a citizen of India? Are the powers to institute cases under cognizable provisions to be exercised so casually by our authorities, in defiance of every statutory mandate and repeated court observations on due process?
I am writing this to you to intervene not just on my behalf but to see to it that a necessary and laudable drive to track and punish money launderers and black money hoarders is not allowed to degenerate into diversion of resources to hound innocents. Indeed, such action takes away from the authorities’ ability to pursue real perpetrators, which would serve to defeat the very objectives of these legislative measures, besides wasting precious judicial time and resources.
I am writing this to you as you are known to be sensitive, alert and proactive on such issues and I am hopeful of a fair, positive and swift action.
With my warm personal regards,
(A copy of this letter was also sent to Chairman, Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), Pramod Chandra Mody and Director, Enforcement Directorate, Sanjay Kumar Mishra. Raghav Bahl had earlier released a press statement after BTVi ran a story highlighting that ED told the Court that it was conducting an investigation matter with regard to Bahl. Raghav Bahl is the co-founder and chairman of Quintillion Media.)