New Delhi: In what may snowball into a controversy, the Income Tax department on Monday issued a notice to Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa’s wife Novel Singhal, regarding her income as an independent director of over a dozen companies.
Singhal is a former banker who resigned from the State Bank of India in 2005.
According to CNN-News18, the I-T department is probing her income after she joined these companies, many of which belong to the power sector . It may also probe whether she put herself in an advantageous position because her husband had served as the secretary in the government of India.
During his tenure as an IAS officer, Lavasa served as principal secretary and financial commissioner (renewable energy sources), principal secretary and financial commissioner (power) and chief coordinator (industries).
Business Standard had earlier reported that Singhal joined as an independent director in four power firms – Dreisatz Mysolar 24 Pvt Ltd, Welspun Solar Tech Pvt Ltd, Welspun Energy Rajasthan Pvt Ltd and Welspun Solar Punjab Pvt Ltd- on the same day i.e on September 14, 2016. “Apart from half-a-dozen other power firms, Ms Lavasa holds directorship in Balrampur Chini Mills Ltd also,” the newspaper reported.
While details about the notice are yet to come, the matter may kickstart another debate on whether the Union government is intentionally using its agencies to go after those who have dissented against BJP leaders.
Lavasa was one of the election commissioners who dissented on several decisions taken by the EC during the 2019 general elections. These involved complaints against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah for alleged violations of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) during the campaign for general elections. Both Modi and Shah were given clean chits later.
Later, the ECI refused to disclose his dissent note in a RTI request and said that it was exempted from sharing the information as it may “endanger” Lavasa’s life. Lavasa had also recused himself from meetings on MCC issues in protest. It was reported that Lavasa had said that he would attend EC meetings only after his dissent notes were included in the Commission’s orders.
The full election commission includes three election commissioners – including chief election commissioner Sunil Arora, Sushil Chandra and Lavasa.