The Modi government’s penchant for extending the tenures of select officers beyond their retirement has spilled over into the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) as well.
Until a few years ago, the chairpersons of the CBDT seldom got extensions beyond their stipulated tenures — with several ending up serving in the department for just a few months. However, last month, P.C. Mody, the incumbent chairperson, was given a six-month extension. This was the second extension for Mody, whose tenure was also lengthened by a year in August last year.
Mody is not the first to get an extension, though. His predecessor in the department, Sushil Chandra, was also given two extensions, making him the longest-serving chairman in decades.
Soon afterwards, he was appointed as an election commissioner. He is slated to become the chief of the Election Commission next year.
Insiders claim that a post-retirement posting could be expected for Mody as well.
Under the Modi government, the only former CBDT chairperson other than Chandra to get a plum post-retirement posting is K.V. Chaudhary, who went on to become the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC).
It is not just chairpersons in the CBDT, which oversees income tax matters, who are being granted extensions. In July this year, S.K. Gupta was given extension as member, CBDT. The extension allows Gupta, widely believed to be the next CBDT chairperson, one year in the post.
However, there is speculation that he could be elevated as chief before his tenure as member ends, when Mody retires.
According to income tax officials, with the Modi government’s focus on key economic and tax reforms only growing in the last few years — demonetisation, GST and now the ‘faceless taxation’ scheme — the post of CBDT chairperson is reserved for those seen as both loyal and competent, and these officers are then also adequately rewarded.
It’s another matter that the income tax department has come to be seen as an extended arm of ruling parties, which use it to pressure political adversaries. For instance, in July, amid a political crisis that threatened to unseat the Congress government in Rajasthan, the income tax department carried out raids against Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s aides. It was just one of the numerous such instances in the past few years.
Karnataka govt ‘bends rules’ to get swanky new ride for former PM Deve Gowda
Former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, who was sworn in as a Rajya Sabha MP during the recently-concluded monsoon session, received a luxurious Volvo XC60 as his official vehicle from the Karnataka government this month.
The vehicle costs approximately Rs 76 lakh on road. Since government vehicles are exempt from tax, it would have cost around Rs 35 lakh, but this is still way above the Rs 22 lakh price threshold set for vehicles allotted to Members of Parliament and Cabinet ministers.
The B.S. Yediyurappa government, it is learnt, decided to provide Deve Gowda with the swanky vehicle as a “special case”, since the senior leader, the only leader from Karnataka to have served as PM, had requested for a “comfortable car”.
“Most MPs or cabinet members use the Innova Crysta as their vehicle. Even the CM’s car, which has no price cap, is not this expensive,” said a government official.