Leading lawyer Prashant Bhushan, on behalf of the NGO Common Cause, on Thursday submitted to the Supreme Court more documents in the Sahara-Birla papers case regarding alleged payoffs to several politicians, including Narendra Modi when he was Gujarat Chief Minister.
Bhushan filed a supplementary affidavit which included, among other papers, a list of mobile numbers of Sahara Group employees who were allegedly involved in the payoffs and a copy of the Income Tax Settlement Commission (ITSC) order, which had hurriedly absolved the Sahara group on November 10, 2016 as revealed by the Indian Express earlier on Thursday.
Speaking to National Herald, Bhushan said, “I had sent the ITSC a letter on November 8, 2016 requesting it not to allow any settlement in the matter. However, just a few days later on November 10, the Commission settled the case and absolved Sahara of all criminal and civil liability on specious grounds.”
Bhushan points out that the Income Tax (IT) Department has said that the Sahara documents are credible, terming the explanation given by the Sahara group as “bogus”. He objected to the ITSC order simply concurring with Sahara’s explanation on how, as reported in Indian Express , “an employee and a friend of his got together to implicate and malign the image of another employee who was the head of the department of the office of the Sahara Group”.
Bhushan’s office says the affidavit filed on Thursday mentions an Excel sheet recovered from the computer of one employee of Sahara Group that shows great detail: date of payment, place of payment, person to whom cash is paid and the person who has delivered the cash. It also shows corresponding cash received from different sources, primarily one M/s Marcom. “All these can be easily further corroborated by checking for call records of the person who delivered the money and to whom it was delivered,” says Bhushan.
Bhushan points out how the IT Department had found “contradictions” in the said employee’s version, where he had said that the whole exercise was done to implicate another employee and get him punished from the management. On the other hand in a later statement he says that he intended to pass on information to various government agencies like IT, SIT etc.
Bhushan points to Section 132(4A) of the Income Tax Act, 1961, which says that “any books of account, other documents,” that are found in the “possession or control of any person in the course of a search” may be presumed to belong to that person and such contents to be true, among other things.
The petition reiterated the request for a court-monitored SIT investigation into the material and evidence collected during raids of the two business groups. A two-member Supreme Court bench will next hear the case on January 11.