New Delhi: Agitated over Nitin Gadkari's veiled warning to Income Tax officials probing allegations of dubious funding of Purti group, their apex body has demanded an unconditional apology from the former BJP president, saying his threat was aimed at hampering fair probe.
"The IRS Association (All India Body) has noted with deep concern and shock, the news-item appearing in the national dailies regarding the alleged threat issued by Shri Nitin Gadkari to the officers of the Income Tax Department investigating the case of suspected tax-evasion by certain companies," the organisation said in its resolution issued today.
Gadkari today came out with a statement denying that he had threatened income tax authorities while insisting that the raids conducted on some companies allegedly associated with his Purti Group were a part of a conspiracy to malign him and his party.
"I never threatened the IT Department or its officials. I have full faith in the professional integrity of the department. Unfortunately, my public statements have been distorted and misinterpreted," he said.
"...I have reasons to believe that unnecessary dragging my name in the context of these inquiries is part of a conspiracy to defame me and my party".
On January 24 in Nagpur, a day after he demitted office as BJP President, Gadkari had sought to make it clear to Income Tax officials, probing financial transactions of the Purti group, that nobody would save them when BJP came to power at the Centre.
"As BJP president I had to maintain dignity and work within boundaries.... Now I am a free man. Congress' boat is about to sink and when our party comes to power, there would be no Chidambaram or Sonia to save them (IT officials)," Gadkari had said addressing party workers.
The IRS Association said, "The statement issued by Shri Gadkari is derogatory for the Service and his threat is aimed to hinder free and fair investigations into a matter of alleged tax evasion." said the resolution passed in a meeting held in the national capital.
the Association, which has 4,000 members, condemned the use of "such intemperate language by a politician of national stature with intention to thwart the rule of law and demands an unconditional apology from him."
The IRS (I-T) is deployed in the country under the umbrella of the tax department and on deputation to other enforcement and investigative agencies for tax collection, checking evasion and a variety of other duties in this domain.
The Association also demanded security for officials working on this case.
"The Association also requests the authorities to provide adequate security to the concerned officers," it said.
Income Tax department offices in Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur have been probing investments of alleged shell companies in the Purti group and the authorities have summoned Gadkari in person on February 1 in Nagpur as part of this
Gadkari said there was a deliberate move "to link me and members of my family in connection with these open inquiries against some companies and the misleading briefings to the media in this regard is calculated, mischievous and politically motivated to damage my reputation".
He said that while exposing the "sinister game plan of the UPA government" to influence the inquires and mislead the media, he had only urged the IT Department and its officials to remain impartial and not get influenced by the dictates of their political bosses.
The offices of 11 companies who have reportedly invested in Purti Group were raided by the IT authorities on January 22, a day before the election of the BJP president.
Nitin Gadkari was all set to seek second term for the top post but was forced to give up after senior BJP leaders including L K Advani objected to his candidature in the wake of the charges of financial irregularities against the Purti group.
Gadkari reiterated that neither he nor any member of his family have anything to do with the companies against whom the inquires have been going on and that "these are not Purti Group companies".