A late-night adventure by two senior income-tax (IT) officers at Mumbai , who sneaked into the room of one of their colleagues and broke open a cupboard to gather information on a leading city builder, went awry recently, leaving the investigation wing of IT red in the face. The duo was caught on the closed-circuit television at Aaykar Bhavan, and the issue has now snowballed into a nasty fight, with the IT top brass in Mumbai trying to pacify the warring officers.

The parties in the tug-of-war over the “sensitive’’ documents are two supersleuths of the investigation wing and Trilochan Khalsa, an officer attached to the assessment wing. The duo, Indian Revenue Service officers of the rank of assistant directors, believed that the files pertaining to the builder would be in Khalsa’s custody.

The assessment wing is basically entrusted with the job of scrutinising the returns while the investigation wing snoops around for instances of tax evasion and is empowered to carry out searches on such parties.

The incident, which brought the tiff between the two wings of the same department out in the open, happened around 10 pm on October 26. The two investigation wing officials, who work out of Scindia House, Ballard Pier, landed up at Aaykar Bhavan, Churchgate. Other officials said they wanted to gather some information on the builder whose assessment was being done by Khalsa but did not approach Khalsa directly as they believed it would have alerted the builder.

The sleuths entered Aaykar Bhavan and approached the caretaker of the building, Ashok Doke, for the keys to Room No 514. The caretaker stays on the seventh floor and keys to the staffrooms are deposited with him after office hours. Doke did not question the two as they were evidently very senior officers—the mandatory requirement of recording the visit in the register was also done away with.

The two officials then went to Khalsa’s room and tried to open the cupboard. Officials said things went horribly wrong after this, and what ensued ultimately led to the full-blown tug-of-war.

The cupboard keys are usually kept by the officers themselves and so the probing duo failed to open it. They then went a step further, breaking the cupboard open and rummaging through its contents before leaving. That the files related to the builder were apparently not even in the cupboard came as the ultimate shocker for the sleuths.

Khalsa noticed the broken cupboard the next morning and promptly brought it to the notice of commissioner K Satyanarayan. The matter was then taken up with chief commissioner S K Chattopadhyay and it finally reached the seniormost income-tax official in Mumbai, R K Singh, also the cadre-controlling authority.

Singh confirmed that such an incident had occurred but clarified that he had no knowledge about the perpetrators. “I am more concerned about the security aspect. There was nothing stolen from the cupboard. We are improving on our security,’’ he said.

But what came as a damning piece of evidence was the fact that the misadventure was caught on the CC television set at Aaykar Bhavan, and this was conveyed to director-general (investigation) Mala Ramakrishnan.

A section of officials, however, felt that the matter was being blown out of proportion “as some of the officials at Aaykar Bhavan are very protective about the builder’’.

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September 2021