I-T raids fast becoming a badge of honour
Even as 'private fund' PM-CARES escapes all scrutiny, actor Sonu Sood is hauled up for unspent amount lying with his foundation
Zabardast, ekdum on top of the world,” said Sonu Sood to film critic Subhash K. Jha who enquired how he felt after four days of ‘search and survey’ by the Income Tax department, raid in popular parlance, earlier this month.
“After I re-surfaced on the internet and phone after four days, there were 53,000 emails and 800,000 messages. Not one of them said, ‘serves you right’,” Sood said, recalls Jha.
But it must have been traumatic for him and his family? “Chalta hai, sir. It’s all part of the system. They were doing their job, as I was doing mine. Eventually we all have our karma to be unanswerable to,” he said philosophically.
Perhaps he should be taking a break, a brief holiday? “Where is the time for a break, sir? In the four days that I was unavailable, hundreds of urgent requests have piled up. My work has to continue,” Sood told Jha and added, “Even as I speak to you, there are scores of people outside, waiting to see me. They want to be reassured that I am alright. So now you know why I said I was feeling on top of the world…”
The actor, producer and philanthropist had earlier told a TV channel that Income Tax officers had agreed that they had rarely seen such meticulous accounting and documentation as they found at Sood’s offices. But that did not prevent the department from accusing Sood of having evaded tax of Rs 20 crore, violating the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) while raising donations from abroad and that his charity foundation raised Rs 18.94 crore in donations from April 2021 till date and spent only Rs 1.7 crore in relief work with the remaining Rs 17 crore lying unutilised.
In March this year 30 properties of filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, actor Taapsee Pannu, Phantom Films and Kwan Talent Agency in Mumbai were also ‘raided’ on charges of tax evasion. Kashyap and Pannu have been vocal critics of the government on several issues, including CAA/NRC as well as the farm laws. They were known dissenters.
But why pick on Sood? The help he extended to stranded migrant workers during the pandemic-induced lockdown last year had elicited appreciation from all corners. Recently Spicejet painted his face on an aircraft with the following words: “Salute to the Saviour SonuSood”.
In a strongly worded editorial, Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamana asserted, “BJP had praised him and asked why the MVA government couldn’t do what Sood was doing. The BJP projected him as their own. But when Sood became the brand ambassador of Arvind Kejriwal’s educational programme, the I-T Department raided him.”
Industry insiders agree that the I-T Department is well within its rights to conduct searches and surveys. But why make a spectacle of a select few? More importantly, what has come of these raids? Why is the charity of Sood and its allegedly unutilised funds being held to such a scrutiny while there is no transparency around the private ‘PM-CARES Fund’?
I-T raids are fast becoming a badge of honour, quipped a Department insider.