Sunday, August 24, 2014

RTI applicant alleges Gujarat CM didn't reveal in 2012 poll affidavit that she was company director

By Our Representative
A right to information applicant has suggested that Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel, one of the closest confidantes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, did not declare her position as director in a non-profit company in the affidavit she filed before the Election Commission of India ahead of the December 2012 Gujarat state assembly elections. The company, according to the RTI applicant Roshan Shah, who brought this to light, was registered as a section 25 company under the Companies Act with the registrar of companies (RoC), making it a non-profit organisation.
According to Shah, “As per election law, if a candidate does not disclose their business interests in their nomination, she or he is liable to be disqualified.” Under a section 25 company registered under Companies Act, the non-profit company's dividends are not distributed to its members. However, members can take use its funds for expenses. "Most global large non-profits are hugely funded and are cash rich", Shah said.
“Non-profit company does not mean that it does not receive funds from any sources, and it also does not mean that the directors do not take out money from its funds”, Shah insisted, adding, “Patel contested the Gujarat assembly elections from Ghatlodia constituency in Ahmedabad. In her affidavit Anandiben Patel did not disclose her interests in Gramsheel Women Empowerment, established as a section 25 company under the Companies Act on March 29, 2011. She is one of its directors.”
Pointing out that “this is the only company registered in RoC in which Patel is director, and was Director at the time of filing her nominations for the Gujarat state assembly elections in 2012”, Shah adds, “Hiding material and substantial fact in affidavit is an offence for any elected representative, and Patel by not disclosing this information in her affidavit is liable to be disqualified.”
Shah has further alleged that the RTI query has “revealed” that the Gramshree Women Empowerment company has not filed balance sheet with the RoC either ever since its inception. “Usually RoC levies quarterly fine if anyone fails to file return, but it seems that the RoC – because of her political stature – has not levied any fine on the company either.”
Shah wonders, “The RTI response questioning the details of fine did not provide any response from the public information officer… If the lawmakers themselves hide material facts and fail to file balance sheet and follow corporate rules, why should they get separate special treatment compared to others?” He adds, “Concealing of information in affidavit is substantial since this is the only firm in which Patel is director. This is a gross offence.” 
Finding more discrepancies in the affidavit, Shah says, interestingly, in the 2007 affidavit, Patel  signed in Gujarati but in 2012 she signed in English. It also brings to question as to how many signatures one can use as per the law and shouldn't the returning officer verify the signature on record and reject the nomination for signature mismatch.”

When contacted, Congress leader Arjun Modhwadia denied that the RTI was filed on the party’s instructions. “I was told a TV channel carried the news. We are investigating. An RTI applicant appears has brought this to light. We will take appropriate steps after consulting legal opinion in the matter”, he said. There is so far no word on it from the chief minister's office.

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