This refers to A K Bhattacharya’s column on "Separation of responsibilities" (September 30). I submit that the factual position as well as his conclusions need to be reset. He says that compulsory retirement has been used “quite frequently only now”. That is not quite correct. It has been done in NDA-I period also for both direct and indirect tax officers when Arun Jaitley was the finance minister (FM). It was done during VP Singh’s time when he was the FM. Singh cleaned up the department of corrupt officers at a very high level, such as the collectors, commissioners and members of the board, in one big sweep.
Next is being done by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In between there was nobody as FM or PM who cared for honesty as such. We had N D Tiwari, P Chidambaram, Manmohan Singh and those who cared two hoots for honesty. It is the truth and nothing but the truth. I stand by what I say as I was in service at that time.
The author has said that it is limited to the income tax department only. Not really. An equal number has been thrown out under Fundamental Rule (FR) 56-J in the indirect tax department also. But he is correct when he says that this has not been done in other departments. While it is true, there is a problem about these officers like in IAS or IPS, as they are assigned to states and they are subject to the jurisdiction of states. If corrupt officers are shielded by the state chief minister, they cannot be brought to the central government for action under 56-J.
Mr Bhattacharya has argued for "creating a Chinese wall between those officers who undertake investigations and those who are responsible for tax collections". This suggestion is far from clear. There are two types of investigations. One is when a tax fraud is detected prima facie at the time of import or manufacture, the task of investigation cannot be obviously detached from the revenue officials. In any case, there are units like anti-evasion or revenue intelligence that are independent organisations. They are not run by revenue collectors. The other type of investigation is against officers that is done by the vigilance department, which too is not run by the revenue officers.
Sukumar Mukhopadhyay via email
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