Tag Archives: Department of Revenue

Direct Taxes: Income Tax Depatment’s working comes under scrutiny

Newsroom24x7 Staff

income taxNew Delhi: Government of India is finding itself in a right corner due to lack of performance by field officers in collection of direct taxes during the current fiscal ending March 31, 2016.

The heat is on Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) and it’s Chairman Atulesh Jindal, who took over in February this year as head of this statutory authority responsible for dealing with matters relating to levy and collection of direct taxes.

Last week, it has been conveyed to the  chairman of CBDT by the Union Department of Revenue in no uncertain terms that if the Revised Estimate target is not met for the current fiscal, the concerned officers will be held accountable.

The Deptartment of Revenue has conveyed displeasure by pointing out that there is no reason why the Revised Estimate target for tax collection should not be met after the Budget Estimate had been lowered on CBDT’s demand.

Senior appointments in Government of India

Newsroom24x7 Desk

north blockNew Delhi: The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet has approved the following appointments:

Badri Narain Sharma, 1AS (RJ:1985), Additional Secretary, Ministry of Power as Additional’ Secretary, Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance in place of Rashmi Verma, IAS (BH:1982) on her elevation as Secretary, Ministry of Textiles.

Anjali Anand Srivastava, IAAS (1982), presently posted in her cadre, has been appointed as Secretary, Central Information Commission will take ove3r from Atanu Purkayastha, IAS (WB:1983) on his superannuation on 29 February 2016.

Bala Prasad, IFS (MN:1983), presently posted in his cadre, takes over as Managing Director, TRIFED under Ministry of Tribal Affairs in place of Karan Bir Singh Sidhu, IAS (PB:1984) consequent on his premature repatriation to his cadre.

Subhash Chandra Pandey, IAAS (1983), presently posted in his cadre, has been appointed as Additional Secretary and Financial Adviser, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, in place of S K Bahri, IAAS (1981) consequent on his premature repatriation to his cadre.

Top level Customs and Excise department promotions leave many frustrated, pressure mounts on FM to intervene

Newsroom24x7 Desk

CBECNew Delhi:  In its zeal to send a message that the Government is working across the administrative set up in the Customs & Central Excise department, the Department of Revenue under the Union Finance Ministry has finally promoted 63 officers in Commissioner grade to the grade of Principal Commissioner notified in 2013 but in the process of clearing these promotions, the rightful claims of several senior officers who were also due for promotion have been sidelined and this has left a large section of officers demoralised and disgruntled.

Inquiries have revealed that an unduly high number of officers – 28 of them have been left out, many of whom do not fall in the 3 categories listed in para 2 of a related Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) circular of September 14, 1992, which spells out in categorical terms the circumstances and reasons under which an officer’s promotion could be withheld, even if an officer is found fit for promotion by the DPC. This circular has also been validated by the Supreme Court in its judgement in the K V Janakiraman case. This was also reiterated in the DoPT circular of November 2, 2012.

A representative forum of Customs and Central Excise officers urged the Government to immediately correct this injustice; fix responsibility on those responsible for the violation of the law laid down by the apex court, and to ensure that such demoralizing and illegal denials of promotions do not recur in future, in keeping with the true spirit of “good governance which is the foundation of the present government.”

CBI registers case in the huge Antrix-Devas scam

Lalit Shastri

antrix-devas scamThe Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has registered a case against K.R. Sridharamurthi (former MD of ANTRIX), Ram Vishwanathan of USA based Forge Advisors LLC, MG Chandrasekhar, a former ISRO official and chairman of Devas and Devas Multimedia Pvt Ltd of Bangalore in the huge Antrix-Devas S-band Transponders scam.

The 2005 agreement between Antrix Corporation Limited (ANTRIX) of Department of Space (DoS) and DEVAS Multimedia Private Limited for lifetime lease of 90 per cent capacity of S-band Transponders of two Satellites that were to be built by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is a huge scam that opened up the Pandora’s box and points to high-level conspiracy and total systemic failure that could have even jeoparised the security of India.

In the midst of allegations and mudslinging, the ANTRIX-Devas agreement, which was signed when Mr G. Madhavan Nair was chairman ISRO, was canceled in February 2011. Commenting on the findings of the high powered review panels and the Government’s action taken report released by ISRO, a Ministry of Space source had told me at that point of time that the proposal from Devas was not put on the agenda when the ANTRIX Board took it up for consideration without even a proper quorum. Even the minutes of the Board meeting were not signed. He went on to point out that all talk of restructuring ANTRIX and reforms in the Space Commission would amount to putting the same wine in the same bottle unless the posts of Chairman of Space Commission, Secretary Department of Space, and Chairman of ISRO are not segregated.

A High Powered B.K. Chaturvedi-Prof Roddam Narasimha Review Committee (HPRC), appointed by government of India had reviewed the technical, commercial, procedural and financial aspects of the Agreement and categorically pointed out that the agreement with Devas indicated certain financial and strategic gaps and the then Chairman ANTRIX Board/Secretary DOS, Director SATCOM, ISRO member Finance, and Space Commission were primarily responsible for the lapse.

Another five-member High Level Team (HLT) constituted under the chairmanship of Pratyush Sinha IAS (Retd) and former CVC, with mandate to examine acts of omission and commission submitted its report to the Government on September 2, 2011.

The SATCOM Policy was approved by the Union Cabinet in January 2000 and the INSAT Coordination Committee (ICC) was authorised to earmark at least certain percentage of INSAT transponders capacity for use by non-governmental users. While ICC met 78 times between 1978 and 2004, it failed to meet even once between 2004 and 2009. The responsibility of calling the ICC meeting lay with Secretary, DOS and Director (SCPO), who were chairman and secretary of ICC.

When technology for multimedia mobile services based on space platform was evolving in 2004-05 a proposal was received by ANTRIX/ISRO from Forge Advisors of USA for a joint venture in April 2004.

The Chaturvedi-Narasimha panel pointed out in its report that the agreement signed with Devas in January 2005, which provided for two satellites PS1 and PS2 had several weaknesses. The agreement was signed with a company which had paid up share capital of only Rs. 100,000. ANTRIX/ISRO had to launch the satellite and penalty had to be paid by them if they did not adhere to the agreed time frame. ISRO committed itself to launching the satellite and incurring the risk of searching for alternative users if Devas failed to develop the new technology for mobile services. While ISRO was to invest about Rs. 800 crore in two satellites and their launches, it provided 90 per cent of the 2500-2690 MHz band leaving very little spectrum with ISRO for any strategic or societal use in future. It has been pointed out that any other multimedia mobile service (MMS) use in the band would not have been efficient due to interference of signals.

A delegation, led by the then ISRO chairman Dr. K. Kasturirangan, had visited the US in July-Agust 2003. Before that Forge Advisors, a consulting firm, had visited India and made presentation to ISRO in March-May 2003. During Dr. Kasturirangan’s US visit an MoU was signed between ANTRIX and FA-USA. Nothing was mentioned about MMS in this MoU. Subsequently a proposal was submitted by FA-USA stating that ISRO was to invest in the space segment and FA-USA in the ground segment for forming a strategic partnership for launching a satellite based national service. Even while a committee headed by Dr. K.N. Shankara, Director Space Application Centre, Ahemedabad was examining the proposal, the ANTRIX Board unanimously accorded in principle approval for processing the JV proposal with Devas on June 11, 2004.

Subsequently, after the Shankara Committee had suggested that Devas would pay annual fee of $11.25 million instead of proposed $ 9 million for the lease period “when Devas became cash positive”, the ANTRIX Board approved the draft agreement with Devas. It was also noted that FA-USA were promoting the establishment of an Indian company called Devas Multimedia Pvt. Limited, which would establish the service and lease the capacity for it. This was a company formed by former ISRO scientists.

On May 26, 2005, a proposal was placed in the meeting of Space Commission for approving design, manufacture and launch of GSAT-6/INSAT-4E.The proposal was approved by the Cabinet in December 2005 and on February 2, 2006 ANTRIX informed Devas of receipt of approvals on the satellite frequency coordination and the contract thus became effective from that date.

The contract was formalized when it was not clear what technologies FA-USA had access to full intellectual Property Rights (IPR). Knowledge on this count was important for the business model of transponder leasing eventually adopted by ANTRIX as the satellite system had to be configured keeping the available technology required for hand-held devices in perspective. The High Powered Committee set up by the Government made it clear that the ANTRIX-Devas Project was a clear violation of government policy and the ANTRIX-Devas agreement, which had provided 90 per cent of the transponder capacity of the first satellite and the same proportion of a second satellite to be used by Devas. This meant utilization of a large part of the S-band spectrum by one private user-Devas. This was against the INSAT Policy, which was “non-exclusive.

The Committee also took the view that from the national security perspective, allocation of a large part of the spectrum to a private player like Devas was unjustified from the security point of view. This was more so since Devas had later entered into an agreement and transferred the controlling rights to Deutsche Telekom AG (DT). The committee pointed out specifically that for this failure, which undermines the security needs of the country, the responsibility primarily lay with the then Secretary DOS and Director SATCOM, and Chairman ISRO/ANTRIX Board.

In a statement on February 4, 2012, ISRO had issued a statement and pointed out that a High Powered Review Committee and a High Level Team have been reconstituted to conduct necessary investigation for possible acts of omission and commission linked with the ANTRIX-DEVAS Agreement h by bringing in new people and dropping others including those whose names have surfaced in the reports of the High Powered Review Committee and the High Level Team.
If and when the Government decides to institute criminal or other charges against any person, that person will be provided appropriate opportunity and due process shall be followed.

The Union Ministry of Corporate Affairs and Department of Revenue were asked to conduct necessary investigation for possible acts of omission and commission leading to the agreement between Antrix Corporation Limited (ANTRIX) of Department of Space (DoS) and Bangalore based DEVAS Multimedia Private Limited on January 28, 2005 for lifetime lease of 9 per cent capacity of S-band Transponders of two Satellites, to be built by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

Inquiries by me at that time had revealed that the Ministry of Corporate Affairs had initiated a probe but the Enforcement Directorate had not started investigations into the leasing of two satellites by Anrix to a company lacking credible standing.

Government of India had set up the High Powered Review Committee (HPRC) on February 10, 2011, to review the technical,commercial, procedural and financial aspects of the Agreement Antrix Corporation Limited (ANTRIX) had entered into with DEVAS. ISRO later clarified that appropriate Committees have been reconstituted by bringing in new people and dropping others including those whose names have surfaced in the reports of the High Powered Review Committee and the High Level Team (HLT).

The HLT had sought “clarifications” from all the officers who at any point in time had dealt with the files concerning the Antrix-DEVAS agreement and the decisions on the satellites. Apart from G Madhavan Nair (former Secretary of DOS); A. Bhaskaranarayana, (former Director of SATCOM Office and former Scientific Secretary of ISRO); and S.S. Meenakshisundaram (former Member Finance, Space Commission),the HLT included to the list, K.R. Sridharamurthi (former MD of ANTRIX); Dr. K.N. Shankara (former Director of ISRO Satellite Centre and Chairman of the Committee for evaluation of DEVAS proposal); Ms. Veena S. Rao (former Additional Secretary, DoS); G. Balachandhran (former Additional Secretary/FA, DoS) and Dr. R.G. Nadadur (Additional Secretary/FA, DoS and former Joint Secretary, DoS), for seeking clarifications.