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No-holds-barred Raids

The Union government has decided to amend a key provision in the Income Tax Act with retrospective effect from April 1, 1962. There are at least two good reasons for people to start worrying. One is that this amendment will mean a retrospective effect of roughly 55 years, and will undo most of the good changes that had been brought about in the law through periodic amendments. The other is that Union Fince Minister Arun Jaitley had made it clear two years ago that the NDA government would not backdate legislative amendments. Much of the fear about the proposed amendment stems from the fact that with the help of the revived old law tax sleuths could raid assessees based on a rumour, card, whim or unsubstantiated suspicion without having to disclose to anyone the source or the basis of the information on which the operation was ordered. In other word, the old law will eble the taxman to go on a on a fishing expedition or resort to undertake unethical means of unearthing concealed income and assets. This could lead to a form of “tax terrorism”. The latest amendment to sub-sections (1) and (1A) of Section 132 of the Income-tax Act say that tax authorities will not have to disclose to “to any person or any authority or the Appellate Tribul” why it has “reason to believe” that a tax assessee is concealing assets which could serve as sufficient grounds for ordering a search-and-seizure operation. This provision of the law effectively removes all fetters on the taxman and makes him uccountable to any court or appellate tribul to explain whether he possessed credible information to order the raid. One can readily appreciate that the latest amendment to the IT Act not only ebles him to conduct uncalled for raids at the drop of a hat but also to collect bribes by merely threatening law-abiding citizens that a raid would be conducted unless they paid up.

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Ankur Kalita