CBI registers case against Lalli, Dehlvi, carries out searches

Case over irregularities in awarding broadcasting rights of Commonwealth Games. Investigative agency awaits permission to also prosecute former Doordarshan DG Aruna Sharma

New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) today carried out searches at the residence of BS Lalli, Prasar Bharti CEO who has been suspended, after it registered a case against him and some others for alleged irregularities in the award of broadcasting rights of the Commonwealth Games that is said to have resulted in a loss of Rs135 crore to the public exchequer.

The case was filed against Mr Lalli, director of Zoom Communications Wasim Dehlvi and others under the Prevention of Corruption Act and Indian Penal Code late Thursday night, official sources said. CBI teams searched Mr Lalli's residence as well as the residence of Mr Dehlvi and two other places.

The CBI action follows the permission from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry for prosecution of Mr Lalli on allegations of corruption relating to broadcast rights given to SIS Live. However, the government has not yet given sanction for prosecution of Aruna Sharma, former Doordarshan director general, for her role in this matter. The ministry is apparently examining the reply it has received from Mrs Sharma, a Madhya Pradesh cadre IAS officer.

While Mr Lalli was suspended following the allegations, Ms Sharma was sent back to the state cadre.

Zoom Communication has denied all allegations against the company as set out in the report of the Shunglu Committee that inquired into the affair. The prime minister decided to refer the matter to CBI after considering the Shunglu committee report and one given by cabinet secretary KM Chandrasekhar.

"Based on documents made available, the committee has concluded that the actual cost of the contract awarded to SIS Live was at best about Rs111 crore, thus resulting in a gain of at least Rs135 crore to the company," the Shunglu report said.

The committee fixed the responsibility for providing "undue benefit" to SIS Live and Zoom Communications on Mr Lalli and Ms Sharma and said they cannot be recused from the acts of omission and commission.

The committee had also said that certain actions seem to attract penal provisions under the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act which need to be separately investigated.

The prime minister had also directed the ministry to review the claims made by SIS LIVE, jointly with Prasar Bharati and in consultation with their financial advisers, to ensure that there is no over-payment.


Govt seeks additional Rs79,590 crore to meet oil, fertilizer bills

The enhanced expenditure includes additional Rs21,000 crore for compensating oil marketing companies, Rs9,000 crore for meeting the defence pension bill and Rs8,000 for fertiliser subsidies

New Delhi: The government today sought Parliament's nod for the sanction of an additional Rs79,590 crore to meet extra expenses related to oil and fertiliser subsidies during the current fiscal, over and above the funds allocated earlier, reports PTI.

This includes an additional Rs21,000 crore for compensating the oil marketing companies for under-recoveries on the sale of sensitive petroleum products, according to the third supplementary demands for grants tabled in the Lok Sabha.

In addition, Rs9,000 crore was sought for meeting the defence pension bill and Rs8,000 crore toward fertiliser subsidies.

Out of the total demand of Rs79,590 crore, the net cash outgo on meeting the extra expenses during the fiscal would be Rs68,918 crore.

The remaining amount, it added, would be met through savings in other heads of expenses and enhanced recoveries.

The outgo will not have any implications on the fiscal deficit, as the amount has been included in the revised estimates for 2010-11.

The Rs8,000 crore grant for fertilizers was sought in lieu of a Rs4,350 crore subsidy on imported decontrolled fertilisers and a Rs3,650 crore subsidy on indigenous decontrolled fertilisers.

The total grant amount sanctioned for oil marketing company in the current fiscal stands at Rs38,558 crore, including Rs14,278 crore that was allocated toward their under-recoveries in the last fiscal.

The government has also sought Rs3,187 crore for meeting the additional expenditure on recapitalisation of PSU banks and to raise its holding in certain state-run banks to 58%.

The grant also includes a Rs3,000 crore compensation to state governments for their revenue loss due to the reduction in central sales tax and Rs500 crore toward value-added tax (VAT) compensation.

Furthermore, Rs5,000 crore was sought for extending short-term loans to Food Corporation of India for procurement operations under the targeted public distribution system.

The government also sought an additional Rs3,380 crore sanction for the farmers' debt relief fund to implement debt waiver and debt relief schemes.

The government had budgeted Rs11.08 lakh crore toward various subsidies in the current fiscal, which was later revised to Rs12.16 lakh crore.


Imposition of MAT will impact SEZ projects: Sharma

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee has proposed to levy MAT of 18.5% on the book profits of SEZ developers and units. The changes in the tax rate would be effective from April 2012

New Delhi: Expressing "surprise" at the budget proposal to impose minimum alternate tax (MAT) on special economic zone (SEZ) developers, commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma today said he has voiced his concerns to finance minister Pranab Mukherjee as the move would impact these projects, reports PTI.

Mr Mukherjee has proposed to levy MAT of 18.5% on the book profits of SEZ developers and units. The changes in the tax rate would be effective from April 2012.

Both developers, as well as units in the tax-free enclaves, were earlier exempted from MAT under Section 115 JB of the Income Tax Act.

"I have discussed this (with Mr Mukherjee) and I have written to the finance minister... It was a surprise and for the developers, surely it is a matter of concern," Mr Sharma told reporters here.

The minister was surprised because MAT was scheduled to be imposed on SEZs when the Direct Taxes Code (DTC) is rolled next year.

He, however, said that the finance minister has assured him that the benefits and concessions that were available to the developers until 2012 and units until 2014 will be there.

"Our understanding has been that we will try to align it (imposition of MAT) with the coming in of the DTC," he added.

MAT was introduced in 1987 to bring companies that paid no or very little tax, after taking advantage of the exemptions provided by the Income Tax Act, into the tax net.

The government has also proposed to impose dividend distribution tax on SEZ developers, which would come into effect from June this year.

Exports from SEZs contribute about one-third of the country's total exports. Shipments from these zones during April-December 2011, grew by 47% to Rs2,23,132 crore vis-à-vis the same period last year.

Under the SEZ Act, units get 100% tax exemption on profits earned for the first five years, while developers get exemption for ten years. Additionally, units get a 50% exemption for the next five years and another 50% exemption on re-invested profits in the following five years.

So far, 582 SEZs have been formally approved by the Board of Approval (BoA), of which 130 are in operation. SEZs have emerged as major sources for attracting investment and increasing exports in the country.

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee in his budget has marginally raised the MAT from 18% to 18.5% on companies' book profits.


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