Top Income Tax officer held on bribery charge

Meena after the arrest in Mumbai

An Income Tax (Appeal) Commissioner, Ramphool P Meena, has been arrested on charges of taking a bribe of Rs 2.20 lakh to expedite an Income Tax Scrutiny closure report of a salaried employee from a corporate firm. The bribe amount was supposed to be collected through a chartered accountant, with a second middleman eventually forwarding it to Meena.

The CBI (Anti-Corruption Bureau) arrested Meena from his Napean Sea Road home on Friday night. The chartered accountant, identified as U A Pai, has also been arrested. Investigators said the bribe amount was allegedly settled at Rs 2.20 lakh from an initial demand of Rs 10 lakh. They have found that Meena had allegedly collected another bribe involving lakhs just eight days ago.

The agency is now questioning the conduit on the nature of transactions that Meena, a 1987 batch IRS officer and formerly Additional Commissioner (Investigations and Company Assessments), had entered into in the past. "This happens to be an unfortunate case involving a high ranking official and some really unfortunate sequence of events," said Rishi Raj Singh, CBI Joint Director, Western Region.

According to the agency, the manner in which corruption has begun to take the shape of "severe harassment" is significant. The complainant, a software engineer with a Mumbai-based corporate, had paid Rs 9 lakh as his tax liability for assessment year 2006-07. The assessment wing for his region found faults in the scrutiny and asked him to allegedly pay "a higher amount" of tax or pay a bribe to get it cleared.

He said in his complaint that his conscience did not allow him to pay the bribe. "They slapped a straight penalty of Rs 20 lakh on him," said SP Abhin Modak. "Feeling victimised, he approached the Appeals wing. He says he felt that no citizen who has made tax payment should be made to suffer such harassment."

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