Journalist Abhisar Sharma says Commissioner of Income Tax is harassing his wife and him.
The scourge of the social media is at it again. This time quoting from awebsite pretending to be neutral and saying that the Central Bureau of Investigation is going to register a First Information Report (FIR) against my wife, Shumana Sen. The allegations speak of a man called SK Srivastava who has been fighting a “brave” battle against me and my wife and another woman officer from the Indian Revenue Serve.
Today I wish to present my side, which incidentally is the only side of this story.
My family has been facing the worst form of witch hunt at the hands of this Srivastava, who seems to be backed by this government. What’s really shocking is that Bharatiya Janata Party’s spokesperson like Sanju Verma reproduce such news items without even confirming the veracity of the article.
SK Srivastava, Commissioner, Income Tax, has pending charge sheets against him and recently the Honourable Supreme Court has in a written order said and I quote ,
“During the course of hearing , the learned solicitor General has submitted that three chargesheets that have been annexed to the counter affidavit that have been filed by respondent number 2 – department concerned have been filed against respondent number 1 (SK Srivastava) but for some reasons no action has been taken in pursuance of the said chargesheets. The enquiry shall be completed in six months from now.”
Srivastava’s case was being investigated by the vigilance wing of the income tax department, where my wife and the other officer were posted at that time. It was then that he started intimidating Shumana and others by writing the worst possible dirt and filth about them. We challenged this man and the High Court pronounced a 15-day jail term for him, which is now pending in Supreme court. I am now quoting from the record of the High court judgement that was in our favour. Sample the filth Srivastava threw at two women officers who have been named X and Y:
1. It is brought on record that to wreak havoc upon me and to intimidate others into silence lest the illicit sexual intimacies between Sri BK Jha and Ms “X” and Sri SS Rana and Ms “Y” in organized prostitution wherein Sri BK Jha and Ms “X” is practicing the illegal trade of prostitution is objected to and punished as per law,
2. Both these women, i.e., Ms “Y” and Ms “X” apart from being in extra-marital sexual intimacies with Sri PK Misra and a large number of other male colleagues are also involved in organized prostitution and are prostitutes in terms of clause (f) of Section 2 of the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1956. … Ms “X” … garishly painted and gaudily attired befitting a prostitute of her caliber, is visiting various places including premises of Ld. CAT, Principle (sic Principal) Bench, Delhi acting in most suggestive and provocative manner offering immoral gratification if person upon whom she is working agreed to conspire with her against me. Log record of operational vehicle assigned to Ms Y would reveal her nocturnal trips to various places and people to canvass support against me through illicit and extra-marital sexual favours….
How does a BJP spokesperson support someone who thinks like this? My wife is a government servant – bound by rules of conduct – and she has no right to reply. Is it fair of Verma to support Srivastava as he targets an officer?
The previous government did not encourage Srivastava, but at the same time, it refused to sack him, displaying a lackadaisical attitude as far as defending women officers in their departments. Although he was suspended in 2007, after the suspension was revoked due to technical reasons, Srivastava was posted to Ranchi by the previous administration. This government, shockingly, brought him back in 2015 and posted him in Noida.
Now let’s talk about the charges.
The entire case against us is built around the allegation that we indulged in money laundering. Srivastava has been dramatically changing this figure over the years – from Rs 100 crores to Rs 5,500 crores, to… now I have really lost count.
The Central Bureau of Investigation’s special court judgement clearly rubbished the case and imposed a Rs 10,000 fine on him. Here’s the gist:
“In view of the aforesaid reasons and to prevent recurrence of such frivolous and mischievous appeals, all the four applications deserve to be dismissed with exemplary costs. However, the costs is concerned I am inclined to take a lenient view. Accordingly all four applications are dismissed subject to cost of 10,000 rupees to be deposited within seven days from now.”
I know Srivastava’s supporters will say the court did not comment on the merits of the case . So my humble submission is, why not challenge this decision in a higher court of law? Why indulge in propaganda on social media? It’s obvious with no facts to back him, it was only vile propaganda that he could rely on to target us.
Interestingly, the Supreme Court had accepted a petition by Shumana Sen and another complainant, pleading that they were being harassed and that the government was doing nothing about it. In the course of the hearings , everyone from S Gurumurthy and KPS Gill filed interventions, and each and every intervention was thrown into the dustbin.
The Honourable Supreme Court had this to say about the entire matter in September 2015, and I quote,
“In the circumstances, we direct that the chairperson of the CBDT, will nominate an officer higher in rank that respondent 1 who will look in to the grievance of the petitioners within six months from today and shall suggest appropriate action, if any, which shall be initiated against the concerned persons”.
Now the matter is being investigated, but the government is obviously dragging its feet. It has already failed to meet the court’s deadline to file a report – could it be because it cannot blatantly deny what these women officers have been undergoing? – and the Supreme Court has asked the government to submit a report by December as the noose around Srivastava’s neck tightens in the defamation case that involves a jail sentence. This explains his desperation to seek publicity on malafide income tax assessments that have been made by the authorities at the behest of Srivastava himself. In fact, it is a classic case of the department being used as a tool to harass honest taxpayers, who just happen to be officers themselves or related to them. This is the worst form of tax terrorism one can witness anywhere.
Let me explain. The entire argument is that the Central Bureau of Investigation will soon file a case based on income tax assessments that have “exposed” some Rs 11 crores of unaccounted wealth possessed by my wife and me. This also includes the name of the other lady officer, who by the way has absolutely no link whatsoever with NDTV. She has never assessed or processed any NDTV tax matter. So why is she named here? Because she was one of the officers posted in vigilance. Srivastava has been intimidating her ever since and he’s now dragged her too in the NDTV matter.
The CBI interrogated my wife for eight hours last year and has been sitting on the matter since. We’ve been told by sources that the CBI didn’t really have a case but left it hanging. We did not attend a single hearing of these assessments as we knew the futility of doing so with Srivastava controlling the strings in the matter. The Circle does not even have the jurisdiction over my case as per the defined jurisdiction chart. But Let me give you an insight into the language of these comical assessments.
“On the other hand, Sri S.K. Srivastava, IRS dug in his heels in the manner reminiscent of the First World War and accused Ms. Sumana Sen (IRS 99005) of accepting bribe and illegal gratification from M/s NDTV Ltd. through the conduit of her spouse Sri Abhisar Sharma and employee of M/s NDTV Ltd.”
“The List of Cases as annexed by the Petitioners as Annexure P-4 with their Writ Petition and which the petitioners wanted the Honble Supreme Court to quash and set aside by calling those cases from the lower Courts including Honble Delhi High Court and other Honble High Courts contained cases in which the petitioners had no involvement and to which were not even party. The demand for removal of 93 minute video from the U Tube and Internet which contained mainly the wrongdoing by M/s NDTV Ltd. without letting any agency inquire or investigate the same only reflected the malafide agenda of the assessee.…. The nexus of assessee and M/s NDTV Ltd. and Rs.5,500 crores money-laundering scam is therefore duly made out …”
“I am the victim of faking of sexual harassent, sexual assault, molestation & repeated rapes by Ms. Sumana Sen (IRS 99005) …… and which she had faked in lieu of money paid to her by Sri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister & former Union Home Minister and M/s NDTV Ltd. who hired them to fake sexual harassment, sexual assault, molestation and repeated rapes by abusing official position….”
Not a single shred of evidence, documentary, or otherwise, has been either mentioned or discussed in any part of any of the orders.
We are now in appeal and have also filed a grievance with the committee set up for the purpose of looking into high pitched additions. Needless to say, no finding has been given by the committee, though the time limit for the same has expired. It is bizarre how the department has moulded itself into being an extension of Srivastava when it comes to harassment.
I would now like to give an outline of the facts about my employment with NDTV and the much hyped and maligned foreign tours.
As a special correspondent with NDTV, I had been given as part of my salary package from 2004 to 2006, a foreign travel allowance. It was part of my cost to company and was given every year at the time of my annual appraisal. This had no connection with the posting of my wife Shumana Sen as Assistant Commissioner Circle (1) 13, which is evident from the fact that the first such appraisal took place on July 29, 2004, whereas my wife joined that charge on August 13, 2004. Also, these appraisals continued even after she left that charge. Therefore, it is crystal clear that the annual foreign travel allowance was purely on the basis of merit, for my work rather than as a bribe for favours granted to NDTV as has been suggested in smear campaigns. I would also like to say with full responsibility that this allowance was given not only to me, but to many others in NDTV. The facts of the case are documented and I don’t wish to add anything further to this.
The following may be noted:
- I joined NDTV in 2003, prior to which I was a Producer in BBC world Service London. Therefore, I was qualified in my own right to be employed in NDTV. Srivastava, supported by Gurumurthy, has often said I was a small time stringer in BBC. However, I was a full time Producer, in London, and selected out of thousands who appeared for the entrance exam.
- There were absolutely no favours granted by my wife to NDTV. On joining, she met her then Commissioner and informed him of my employment with NDTV. Before she could intimate the same in writing, an order dated 19-8-2004 (documents available) was issued in which he assigned eight cases to the Additional Commissioner Range 13 (my wife’s immediate superior officer) and vide that order, the Additional Commissioner was assigned these cases in capacity of an assessing officer with immediate effect. Out of these eight cases, two were of M/s NDTV and M/s NDTV World, limited for the assessment year 2002-03. There was no time gap in which my wife could have given a written intimation since she had joined on August 13 and the order was passed on the 19th.
- The only order passed by my wife in case of NDTV was the intimation under section 143(1) of the Income tax Act and the refund cheque, which was due to the organisation and had to be given on time in order to avoid paying interest to NDTV later on, which would have caused loss to the revenue and monetary benefit to NDTV by way of interest. To put it simply, she has saved money for the government. Moreover, this refund was granted only after obtaining the approval of the Additional Commissioner Range 13, as per the provisions of the Income Act.
- Srivastava sought to defame me and my wife by getting my income tax cases reopened and then conniving with officers to make absurd additions with the view to upload it on the internet, thereby tarnishing our image. A perusal of that order of year 2006-2007 shows that a total addition of Rs 43 lakhs has been made out, of which an addition of Rs 31,90,500 has been made on the issue of ESOPS , quoting a section of the Act which was not applicable in that year. As clarified by NDTV (letter available), fringe benefit tax did not apply for the first two years. Similarly, the assessing officer has made wild estimates while calculating what our expenditure must have been on foreign travels that year (without any basis) and has made additions accordingly.
The assessment order under section 148 in our cases mentions a closure report of the vigilance directorate on the complaint filed by Srivastava containing allegations of corruption and misconduct. To quote the report,
“In this regard, I am directed to submit that the complaint concerning NDTV Ltd made by Sh SK Srivastava against Ms Shumana Sen was registered as FCR-A/sd/NZ/56/13 and same has been closed by DGIT(vigilance) on 15-02-2013 in absence of any vigilance angle and in view of the honourable High court’s directions.”
It has been the modus operandi of the cartel headed by Srivastava and shamefully supported by Gurumurthy where documents have been leaked deliberately to cause embarrassment to me and my family and in turn to my employer.
The constant leaking of our documents, the absurd IT assessments and then CBI threats only suggests one thing – a smear campaign, and I will not take this lying down.
There have been continuous setbacks that Srivastava has faced from courts and various other tribunals in addition to the fine imposed by the CBI special court in the money laundering case and the jail sentence by the High court. For example, my wife had filed a harassment case against him in the Barakhamba road police station. Not only was an FIR filed against him, but the Court ordered for framing of charges.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley spoke out for his officers Arvind Subramanium when he was targeted by a BJP leader. Will now Mr Jaitley defend my wife, as a BJP spokesperson attacks her?
If the cases had an iota of truth, I would have bent over backwards for this government, as some in my community have. Like the one who has been avoiding a second jail term in Tihar and another journalist who had made 500 phone calls to an arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari, arrested by Enforcement Directorate and suspected to be a middleman in the Rafale deal. The ED found a money trail that led to a Gurgaon penthouse. It wanted to interrogate and is still waiting for an answer from the Finance Ministry.
I am a fiercely neutral journalist who would continue to question this government on all its wrong doings. I am also fiercely protective of my family. If you attack us, I will defend our honour at any cost. So bring it on. I am also counting on the FIR that the CBI intends to file against us, as mentioned in the PGuru website. I seriously am. The CBI may ignore the facts of the case, but the Courts of this country still demand fact by way of evidence. (Courtesy: newslaundry.com)