I-T official goes to HC against FM's decision to allow his prosecution

FP

Assistant Income-Tax Commissioner Vivek Batra, a 1992-batch Indian Revenue Service officer, has moved Bombay High Court challenging the decision of Finance Minister P Chidambaram to grant sanction to prosecute him in a case of disproportionate assets.

Batra has contended that the order of the finance minister, issued on October 9, 2012, is arbitrary, as the sanction for prosecution had been refused thrice by his predecessor Pranab Mukherjee, before he became President.

The Central Bureau of Investigation had booked Batra under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, for allegedly amassing wealth worth Rs 1.27 crore disproportionate to his known sources of income, between January 4, 1993 and March 31, 2004. The CBI had alleged that Batra had accumulated wealth in the name of his wife and son, and had links with two benami companies with assets worth Rs 56.30 lakh.

In his petition filed through lawyer Prakash Naik, Batra has stated that between October and November 2010, the CBI had sought the sanction to prosecute him. "The sanction to prosecute a government officer is granted by the competent authority. In this case, the competent authority would be the finance minister," Naik explained.

Batra has stated that after investigating the case for over six years, the CBI could not gather sufficient evidence to prove the charges against him. "The prosecution for sanction is pending for two years, this speaks volumes about the negligible evidence gathered by the CBI," Batra has contended.

Through an application made under the Right to Information Act, Batra obtained the note sheet and documents available in the file seeking his prosecution.

The order of July 7, 2012 under RTI revealed that the then Finance Minister Mukherjee had refused the sanction for prosecution on January 10, 2011, February 2, 2012 and April 27, 2012. In his notings of the final decision, the minister had written that "prima facie no case made out for major penalty and prosecution. The matter may be closed only on administrative warning", the petition states.

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