K.V. Chowdary is said to have been as close to the power centres in UPA as he is in NDA.
New Delhi: K.V. Chowdary, the first officer of the Indian Revenue Service (IRS) to be appointed as the Central Vigilance Commissioner, is in the eye of a storm for his role in the ongoing tussle in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
As CVC, a post that gives him superintendence over the CBI, Chowdary has been accused by the opposition of doing the government’s bidding in the imbroglio.
Chowdary, who always sports a prominent red tilak on his forehead, is among the few bureaucrats believed to have been as close to the power centres in the Congress-led UPA administration as he is in the BJP-led NDA government, having held important positions under both.
Before the 1978-batch civil servant’s stint with the anti-corruption agency, he had served a brief three-month tenure as the chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) from August 2014, where he kept the crucial portfolio of investigation with himself.
He had earlier been a member in the board from August 2012, handling the investigation portfolio from October 2012. He has also held the post of director-general of income tax (investigation), Delhi, from November 2010 to August 2012.
He handled many high-profile cases during his stint at the CBDT, including the alleged scams in 2G and coal mine allocations, as well as the Commonwealth Games.
Chowdary was in charge of investigation when the tax department raided the offices of the Purti group, affiliated to Union minister and BJP leader Nitin Gadkari, in January 2013. As political rivals latched on to the allegations, Gadkari had refused to seek a second term as party president, which had earlier seemed his to take.
On his retirement, Chowdary was appointed by the Narendra Modi government as an adviser to the special investigation team on black money, a post he held till June 2015. Chowdary was appointed as the CVC in June 2015.
The CBI controversy is not the first Chowdary has faced.
Noted lawyers Ram Jethmalani and Prashant Bhushan had written to the Prime Minister to oppose Chowdary’s appointment to the CVC. In a writ petition filed in the Supreme Court, Bhushan’s NGO Common Cause sought to question Chowdary’s role in some of the cases he handled.
It flagged the frequent meetings between Chowdary and then CBI director Ranjit Sinha and alleged quid pro quo when the former gave the latter a clean chit in a case involving meat exporter Moin Qureshi, and Sinha allegedly returned the favour by absolving officers working under Chowdary in the so-called ‘Stock Guru scam’.
The NGO also questioned Chowdary’s involvement in the alleged under-assessment of the income of a company associated with the late liquor baron Ponty Chadha. They accused Chowdary of proceeding slowly in an investigation related to Indians’ black money stashes in HSBC Geneva, and lack of action in the 2G and Niira Radia tapes case. The appointment of T.M. Bhasin as a vigilance commissioner was also questioned by the NGO.
Chowdary, on his part, claimed that during his tenure as CBDT member (investigation), the number of cases in which prosecution was launched increased to 669 from 149. He also pointed out how, under him, the Delhi zone of the tax department, conducted many searches against people named in the HSBC list, saying this accounted for nearly one-third of the total cases in which action was taken.
He said his meetings with Sinha were purely work-related and denied any quid pro quo.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.