The man under the spotlight of tax terrorism debate — B R Balakrishnan, chief commissioner of income tax (I-T), Bengaluru — was in the midst of farewell calls and goodbyes when a letter written by missing Café Coffee Day chain founder V G Siddhartha went viral on Tuesday. The letter, addressed to the board members and staff, had alleged harassment by the “previous DG of I-T’’, without naming him. The same officer, from the 1983 batch Indian Revenue Service, will retire on Wednesday (July 31) as Bengaluru’s I-T chief commissioner.
Balakrishnan refused to react to the India Inc criticism of growing incidents of tax terrorism following Siddhartha’s letter. Appearing unfazed, he told Business Standard, ‘’I only believe in doing my job well.’’
Recently, Balakrishnan was caught in a political controversy over a series of raids carried out by his team. Then coalition government of Karnataka led by H D Kumaraswamy had complained to the Election Commission against this I-T officer for “picketing outside its office’’. Kumaraswamy and other ministers had alleged “selective raids” on supporters of JD(S) and Congress ahead of elections.
Prior to joining as DG (Investigation), Balakrishnan had worked in the Investigation Wing of the IT department in Chennai and Mumbai. In 2017, a probe led by Balakrishnan had unearthed the ‘gutkha scam’ where bribes were paid to Tamil Nadu ministers.
His colleagues pointed out that Balakrishnan was an efficient and upright officer, besides being a technology freak. A former Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) chairperson described Balakrishnan as a good investigator who went by the law. “It is hard to believe that Balakrishnan would have resorted to harassment,’’ he said.
However, another IRS officer argued that perhaps Balakrishnan did not make an attempt to understand the imperative under which CCD and other related entities were operating. ‘’Did he not know he was going to kill the company? Should he not have taken a call or discussed with the minister?’’ were among the questions being asked.
In an interaction with the industry in 2018, Balakrishnan had said, “We don’t prosecute people with any sadistic pleasure…. If there are cases of deliberate attempts to evade tax, or those having illicit income coming from drugs and corruption, I don’t think it is fair to not prosecute them.”