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28K J&K govt employees under I-T dept scanner for claiming bogus refunds

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28K J&K govt employees under I-T dept scanner for claiming bogus refunds

Srinagar, Jun 4: More than 28,000 government employees working in Jammu and Kashmir, including 8,000 police and paramilitary force personnel, are under the scanner of the Income-tax department for allegedly claiming bogus refunds worth a few crores of rupees while filing their ITRs, official sources said.

The taxman has found that this purported fraud took place during the Income Tax Returns (ITRs) filing seasons in 2020-21 and 2021-22 even as the department has registered two criminal FIRs against a Chartered Accountant (CA) and 404 other people, with the J-K Police crime branch after a similar fraud was detected for the last few fiscals.

The alleged irregularities came to light sometime back after the Tax Deducted at Source (TDS) wing of the department located in Srinagar found that a number of people who are assessed in the Union Territory of J-K had claimed “excessive and ineligible deductions” under various heads leading to claim of bogus refunds, the sources said.

Documents accessed by PTI show that the Principal Director of I-T (J-K and Ladakh) M P Singh sanctioned filing of police FIRs against the CA and 404 other people that includes some dubious tax advisors and filers for “entering into a conspiracy and defrauding the exchequer of a sum of Rs 16.72 crore between the financial years 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20.”

The department found that many among these people had filed incorrect or false ITRs and had identically claimed around Rs 4 lakh in refunds, they said.

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The department, as part of the complaints that resulted into two FIRs filed on May 25, has shared with the police the names, addresses, PAN and bank accounts of these 405 people after which the crime branch froze these bank deposits, the sources said.

The police has booked these people under various sections of the IPC like 420 (cheating), 468 (forgery), 471 (using a forged document as genuine), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and section 66D of the Information Technology Act (cheating by impersonation).

The department has also written to the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) seeking cancellation of the accused CA’s licence, who runs a consultancy firm in Rajbagh area here and whom it considers the “prime accused” in the case, the sources said.

Alarmed by this development, the department ran a fresh check in November last year for the ITRs filed by salaried employees working in J-K and found similar instances of bogus claims of deduction made by them to seek refunds.

The employees, as per the sources, belong to the power development, health, tourism, education, bank, universities apart from personnel of the police and the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) that are deployed in the UT for law and order and counter-terrorism duties.

The I-T Principal Commissioner wrote to the heads of these organisations in March informing them that there is a provision to correct or update such returns by filing an ITR-U and avoid getting into legal trouble.

Over 9,000 employees filed their ITR-U in J-K by this March end and the department collected additional tax of more than Rs 56 crore, the sources said.

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An ITR-U enables a taxpayer to update their returns (ITRs) using the e-filing portal anytime within two years from the end of the relevant assessment year.

However, many employees did not avail this opportunity of filing ITR-U and now they will be issued penalty notices and in some cases police FIRs will be filed like the one filed against the 405 people, the sources said.

According to an estimate, over 28,000 government employees have fraudulently claimed refunds for 2020-21 and 2021-22 and the department will soon initiate action against them after sending them notices for scrutiny of their ITRs, the sources said.

According to the law, if a person evades tax or mis-declares their income in the ITR they can be prosecuted and charge sheeted by the tax department under section 276C of the I-T Act that entails a rigorous imprisonment ranging from six months to seven years on a case-to-case basis.–(PTI)

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*Pak using social media local influencers, narcotics to radicalise Kashmiri youth: Army* Srinagar, Jun 4: Pakistan is using a mix of social media, local influencers and narcotics to radicalise the Kashmir youth to pick up the gun but Army has launched various people-friendly initiatives to counter the propaganda of the inimical elements, a senior army officer has said. General Officer Commanding of Army’s 15 Corps Lieutenant General ADS Aujla said the attempts from across the Line of Control (LoC) to push narcotics was a cause of concern as it was destroying the future generation of Kashmir. “Social media plays a very important role in this (radicalisation) and that is where the western adversary invests very heavily and that is where the narratives are built, the themes are built…which then are let loose in the environment and caught out by the youngsters here,” Lt Gen Aujla told PTI in an interview last week. The officer, who has spent considerable part of his career in Jammu and Kashmir, said besides social media, the local cadres of Jamaat-e-Islami also play a major role in the indoctrination of the youth. “The local Jamaatis, they also play the major role in radicalising the youngsters. So, a combination of both of these gives them (youths) this high of falling on a wrongful path or joining a tanzeem or picking the weapon and doing something wrong,” he added. Lt Gen Aujla said the youth of Kashmir are otherwise very focussed and brilliant minds. “It is just that within a large society, there are certain inimical elements who do prey upon certain individuals who are very very vulnerable because of either education or the condition at home or because of the peer pressure. It is primarily the social media, it is the Jamaatis who are there, and to a certain extent the peer group and a little bit about the narcotics which gets them on doing certain wrongs,” he said. Asked if the neighbouring country was using drones to deliver weapons and narcotics into Kashmir, the officer said terrain of the LoC in the valley makes it a difficult task. “The geography actually does not permit them to use this technology or equipment in this place. So, from that point, I think, we are decently immune. But, I cannot say for sure that they cannot be used. There are certain places where (they can), but we are pretty robust on ground to take care of any such misadventure by the enemy in this area,” he said. Lt Gen Aujla said with the type of pressure that is being mounted by the investigating agencies like the NIA and the SIA on terror financing networks, the narcotics smuggling has become the source to finance the nefarious deeds on inimical elements. “From where it was and where it is now, we have put a little bit of check on that, the lid has been put. The agencies and the administration are pretty sensitive to it and many a methods, many a measures have been put in place to ensure that this particular trend is controlled and captured at the earliest,” he added. The GoC said the narcotics were “ruining the system and the society”. “As far as Kashmir is concerned, a lot of youngsters are getting into this kind of a business, both as carriers and in the consumption part as well. That is where some money comes back which is used by the tanzeems to fund their designs,” he said. Lt Gen Aujla said ‘Operation Sadbhavna’ has been a going on with the focus of the army on three major facets. “The first is education where we put a lot of impetus, a lot of focus is there to enhance the educational reforms to give them top-notch education in whatever way is possible. That is where 28 Army goodwill schools are presently running in the Kashmir valley which is a huge number. It constitutes 11,000 students and if you add the staff, it comes to about 15,000. so, that is the type of families that we are associated with for a long period of time,” he said. The officer said the other aspect where the Army has invested very heavily is for deradicalisation part is the ‘Sahi Rasta’ (Right Path) programme where the people on the brink of joining terror ranks are brought back to the mainstream. Lt Gen Aujla said the third aspect is narcotics-related where addicts are given medical help and counselling.–(PTI)

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