Many civil servants after retirement are joining corporates and PSUs, holding top positions with enviable salaries. The case with retired taxmen is no different
By India Legal Correspondent
Even before the government inks new tax laws to curb black money, the demand for retired taxmen has soared. Corporates, both Indian and foreign, as well as high-net-worth individuals are seeking their help in meeting the challenges that will come with the new tax regime.
One such taxman is Sudhir Chandra, an Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer. After retiring from the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) in May 2011 as its chairman, he floated an organization called CTAR (Center for Tax Awareness & Research), which claims to be “India’s first tax research center being anchored by former tax officers”. Besides creating tax awareness, it also provides tax consultancy.
Other high-profile retired bureaucrats who have joined CTAR are ex-telecom secretary PJ Thomas, former CBI Director DR Karthikeyan and former chairman of the Central Board of Excise and Customs SK Goel. Other IRS officers, such as RK Sharma, BN Dutta and Anjani Kumar, have also joined CTAR.
Talking to India Legal on his post-retirement activities, Chandra says he hates the word “retirement”. He says life has different stages and each of them are important. The former IRS officer compares it with a train journey, where one comes across different stations. “If one has to reach the final destination, one needs to catch a train from station A to reach station Z. I had an option to join private companies like several of my colleagues or do something on my own for public cause. I chose the later. I also offer advice to corporates to earn my livelihood.”
His CTAR colleague SK Goel shares Chandra’s passion for work and life. Explaining the idea behind CTAR, Goel says: “CTAR also gives basic and free advise on tax issues to those who seek help through its website. In case of complicated tax matters, we ask the person to send documents or come and meet us personally to discuss the matter. Our wide experience helps in providing the right guidance to tax payers. We started in 2013 and we are happy with the work we are doing.”
Chandra, in his long stint in the tax department, handled several politically sensitive cases involving former chief ministers Madhu Koda (Jharkhand), Mayawati (Uttar Pradesh) and Sheila Dikshit (Delhi, in the CWG case).
However, the high point of his career remains the massive tax raids conducted on the houses and offices of Koda in 2009, when Chandra was member, investigation, in CBDT. Koda and his associates were accused of swindling Rs. 2,000 crore of public money.
The low point was his “poor” handling of Mayawati’s Disproportionate Assets (DA) case in 2010. As reported in The Indian Express in March 2013, his wife, Renu Chandra, allegedly benefited from a land deal with the Noida Authority during Mayawati’s tenure, believed to be worth `20 crore. It was alleged that the authority “illegally” helped Renu in settling the land deal in her favor in 2010 when Chandra was handling Mayawati’s DA case. It claimed that Chandra as member, investigation, CBDT, directly handled the ex-CM’s case.
Based on his department’s clean chit to Mayawati, the SC, which was monitoring the probe, dropped the DA case in July 2012. However, Chandra had clarified that the Noida authority’s decision was not a favor but a genuine settlement as per due process of the law.
In June 2011, Chandra was again in the news when several media reports alleged that the office of then finance minister, Pranab Mukherjee, in South block was “bugged”. In a June 26, 2011, report, PTI claimed that the Intelligence Bureau, probing the “bugging” incident, had questioned Chandra for calling “private sleuths” to sweep the FM’s office and not the government’s counter-intelligence unit. Chandra, incidentally, shared a close relationship with his then boss Mukherjee.
Then, there is Ashok Kacker, who took voluntary retirement in 2007 when he was chief commissioner of Income Tax. He now runs a tax consultancy firm called AK Advisors and Consultants and is much sought-after for his extensive experience in public administration, finance, international taxations, mergers and acquisitions, capital and financial markets, valuation and assessments and financial markets. He is also group president with Indiabulls Group and holds directorships in India Bulls Asset Management Co. Ltd, Indiabulls Industrial Infrastructure Limited, Indiabulls Venture Capital Management Company Limited, Salins Commodities Private Limited, Golden Green Golf and Resorts Limited and Inventive Green Technology Solutions Private Limited. He was previously director of Max India Limited and Satyam Computer Services Limited and was executive director of Securities and Exchange Board of India. He also serves as member, Global Advisory Board of Arshiya Ltd.
Another retired IRS officer, G Anantha-raman, is now special advisor to the chairman of Tata Realty and Infrastructure Limited. He retired as Chief Commissioner of Income Tax, Mumbai, in June 2004. His profile on the company’s website claims that he has handled several tax fraud cases and matters relating to tax administration. He was also instrumental in developing the Anti-Money Laundering draft provisions in 1995-96. On retiring, he joined the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) as whole-time member in charge of surveillance, investigations and market regulations. He continued to occupy the position till March 13, 2008.
As reported in India Legal ’s March 31 issue, retired bureaucrats are seen as “prized commodities” because of their “network” and “experience”. They help corporate and individuals cut through the bureaucratic maze. However, this “mutual” symbiotic relationship starts when the bureaucrat is in service and is “cultivated” by businessmen. Post retirement, they take up lucrative jobs in those companies or float another one to carry on their “job”.
(Top-Bottom) Ex-telecom secretary PJ Thomas and former CBI director DR Karthikeyan have joined a tax firm floated by Sudhir Chandra; Taxman Ashok Kacker runs a tax consultancy firm after quitting as chief commissioner, income tax
LURED BY PSUS
But it is not only corporates which lure these babus. The taxmen also grab posts as directors and board members in government-controlled organizations. For example, Deepak Amitabh, an ex-IRS officer who is presently CMD of PTC India Ltd, the leading provider of power trading solutions in India and established in 1999 as a Public-Private Partnership.
(Top-Bottom) Former coal secretaries, Alok Perti and C Balakrishnan, are serving as independent directors in Coal India;Retired IRS officer G Anantharaman is a special advisor to the chairman of Tata Realty and Infrastructure Limited
These babus are also sought-after to fill the mandatory requirement in government-owned and private companies of having independent directors on board. They play an important role as they act as checks and balances in running a company’s affairs and are also preferred for their “personal” equations more than their domain experience.
Take former coal secretaries Alok Perti and C Balakrishnan. They are serving as independent directors in Coal India. Balakrishnan is also a director in Neyveli Lignite, another PSU that he handled as coal secretary.
Then, there are former railway officers Sudhir Mathur and Pradeep Bhatnagar, who are on the board of Concor, a public sector entity under the Indian Railways.
Quite a happy situation, that.